Duval among 4 counties to benefit from new Florida program for young crime victims

Program designed to keep victims from becoming criminals down the road

VIDEO: A new program launched in Florida will provide funding for Urban Leagues in Duval and several other counties to help young victims affected by crime.

A new program launched Friday in Florida will provide funding for Urban Leagues in Duval and several other counties to help young victims affected by crime.

The funds for the public services program, called Thrive, will be used in Duval, Broward, Leon and Pinellas counties to help with advocacy, basic needs, relocation, security doorbell installation and more.

Most of us haven’t been the victims of crime, but imagine how traumatic it would be for a child to witness a crime or be a victim of crime and not be able to talk about it. Part of the purpose of the program is to help these young victims connect with mentors and find other services -- before the trauma affects their behavior in a negative way.

“We want their path forward to be bright and full of hope. And that’s what this program Thrive is meant to do, to identify them at an early stage in their life where we can help them recover from traumatic experiences and go on and lead to productive and accountable, fruitful, happy lives,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said.

Moody announced the new initiative Friday alongside the Florida Consortium of Urban League Affiliates. According to Moody’s Office, more than $830,000 in federal Victims of Crime Act funding will be used to pay victim advocates and provide recovery services.

“It is heartbreaking any time a child is victimized by criminal behavior, especially if no one is there to help them along the road to recovery,” Moody said. “As a former judge, I have seen young people with promising futures victimized over and over again and, in some incidences, turn to crime themselves.”

The release announcing the program cited statistics from several studies showing that children who are crime victims are more likely to commit crimes later.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, perpetrators of violence tend to have a history of domestic and family violence. Children who witness intimate partner violence growing up are three times as likely as their peers to engage in violent behavior.

Another study, cited in a December 2020 U.S. Department of Justice Report, found that 75% of children who witness domestic violence will grow up to repeat the same behavior.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, a retired police officer, said he’s seen those statistics in action, but he’s also seen programs like Thrive work positive change.

“It can be effective if you catch the individual at a young age,” Jefferson said.

The same study found that if one person in the family chooses to use violence, within four generations, 18 people will continue the cycle.

“We developed Thrive to help meet the needs of these Floridians living in areas of the state with above average criminal behavior,” Moody said. “By working with the Urban League, we hope this innovative program will better support young victims of crime through a hands-on, more-engaged approach to recovery with thoughtful guidance.”

The program is designed to help Floridians affected by assault, bullying, domestic violence, gang activity and other crimes. The Urban League programs help victims of crime with victim emergency needs, advocacy and more.

“The Florida Consortium of Urban Leagues is proud to champion this initiative with the Florida Attorney General’s Office,” said Urban League of Broward County President and CEO Dr. Germaine Smith-Baugh. “Thrive, as a victim’s advocacy and support statewide initiative, offers healing and systemic change within underserved communities, and the Urban League exists as a nucleus for that change. We are committed to empowering individuals with transformative solutions to create stronger, safer, and more viable communities.”

To help fund this new program, the Florida Attorney General’s Office will identify VOCA-eligible expenses related to client services provided through the Urban Leagues and then reimburse the qualifying expenses, allowing the existing dollars to reach even more victims in need.

It’s unclear how much funding the Jacksonville Urban League will receive.

If you, or someone you know, are suffering from abuse or violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or call law enforcement by dialing 911.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.