CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH, VA
Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf

OPTIONS, CHOICES & CONSEQUENCES

1. What is the structure of the program?

Options, Choices and Consequences (OCC) is a youth gun violence prevention and awareness program that focuses specifically on youth gun possession and related violence. Developed by the Virginia Beach Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit and modeled after a program in Seattle, Washington, the program provides a "reality check" that exposes Virginia Beach high school students to real life consequences of gun violence. Options, Choices and Consequences is a partnership between the Virginia Beach Police Department, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Virginia Beach Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, Virginia Beach City Attorney’s Office, Virginia Beach General Hospital, Portsmouth Naval Hospital and local public and private businesses and community organizations. The program and curriculum are designed for all ninth grade students attending Virginia Beach public schools.

Regular class lesson plans are replaced for three one-hour sessions on consecutive days. Class presentations involve a police officer, an attorney and a physician/nurse. The role these professionals play is to educate students on the legal, medical and emotional consequences of gun violence and the options young people have available to them to avoid violence. One vital aspect of this program is the legal and healthcare professionals volunteer their time to support it.

Options, Choices and Consequences is part of the proactive community policing philosophy and mission statement: "To prevent youth gun violence by educating the community, specifically young people and their parents, about the consequences of gun violence."

Day One - Instructors: Healthcare Professionals

Introduction - On the first day of the program students are introduced to the topic of "Youth Gun Violence." This is accomplished by presenting statistics regarding firearms and violence recorded in Virginia Beach, Virginia, nationally and internationally as well. The purpose of the introduction is to start young people thinking about gun violence and how it affects them.

Medical Consequences - After the introduction by the police officer, the physician follows with the medical consequences portion of the program. Short stories and slides are used to describe the immediate and long-term physical and emotional consequences of gun violence. Through the stories, the physician dispels common myths about gunshot trauma and gets the students to think and talk about the options they have when confronted by a gun and the consequences of their choices. Some of those myths include that people either die or totally recover from gunshot wounds, that gunshot trauma does not hurt, and that guns provide an effective way of protecting yourself.

The stories are supported by very graphic photographs of victims who’ve experienced gunshot trauma. Included in the presentation are several medical supplies that are sometimes used in these types of cases, ie. thoracic catheter, tracheal tube, Foley catheter, colostomy bag and an adult size diaper.

At the end of each day of instruction there is a questions and answer period to encourage discussion of the presentation.

Day Two - Instructors: Legal Professionals

Legal Consequences - After a brief reintroduction of the subject, the second day begins with an attorney reading a hypothetical situation to the students. The situation involves two young men who bring guns to school, both for different reasons. Through a series of events, the guns get used in a shoot out in the bathroom.

The attorney discusses with the students the laws and the penalties that pertain to those laws. Those laws include: unlawful possession of a weapon; assault; manslaughter; and murder. Also discussed are accomplice liability and certification for adult prosecution. Additionally, several age progression photos are used showing age of entry into confinement and age-progressed photo on release to bring to life the reality of spending your life in confinement.

Options and Choices - The second part of the class is spent discussing the same hypothetical situation. The police officer involves the students in discussion about the options the young people in the story had, and the choices the students would make if they found themselves in a similar situation. As with the first day, day two ends with questions and comments about young people and guns.

Day Three - Instructor: Police Officer

On the third and final day of the program, the police officer provides information on local youth gun violence. The Officer shows a 28-minute video titled "Wasted! Guns and Teens, Lives and Dreams." The video reaches out to all young people and seeks solutions from a mix of experts and students.

The objective of the third day is to insure the students have a personal understanding of the ramifications of gun violence and also understand that every choice has a consequence. Discussions, surveys and course evaluation forms are provided to students to obtain feedback on the program. The feedback is used to make program improvements to enhance the quality of classroom sessions that follow.

Classroom Materials - Classroom presentations are supported by handout

materials and visual displays. They are designed to catch and hold the attention of 9th grade students.

Each student is given a folder that includes a fact sheet with statistics on gun violence; a workbook containing hypothetical stories used during the second day of the presentation, and an information sheet containing names and telephone numbers of resources available to young people in Virginia Beach.

2. When was the program created and why

When: The program was developed in October of 1996 and implemented in February of 1997, as a pilot program reaching over 2,500 youth. It is now taught to every 9thgrade student in the Virginia Beach School system (6,412 students).

Why:

  • To fill a much needed void of educating our youth on the options and choices they have and the ramifications and consequences of gun violence.
  • To explore and develop effective strategies and solutions to gun violence and violent crime.
  • To educate citizens on the importance of creating and implementing effective local and national crime prevention programs such as this and other community policing programs.
  • To prevent youth gun violence by educating the community, specifically young people and their parents, about the consequences of youth gun possession and related gun violence.
  • To develop a curriculum for high school age students and their parents concerning the medical and legal consequences of youth gun possession and juvenile victimization.
  • To develop a public awareness campaign designed to educate the public on this worldwide epidemic of youth gun violence, and to educate them on the importance of public support, sponsorship and partnerships to assist in combating this socio-economic problem.
  • To identify available public and private resources so that OCC and other crime prevention programs and initiatives can be continued and further enhanced.

3. What are the measurements of effectiveness?

Upon completion of the program each student is asked to complete a Student Questionnaire/Confidentiality Statement which is used to gauge students attitudes and opinions about gun violence. It also helps determine if the class was beneficial in helping them understand the long term consequences of gun violence. A timeline series test is currently being conducted to determine if there is a drop in youth gun violence that can be attributed in part to this program.

The number of students enrolled in this class will measure the success of student involvement.

4. How is the program financed?

The program was initially funded by forming partnerships with local community and businesses leaders who contributed $48,500 in monies (grants and donations) and in-kind service. The current annual budget for OCC is $56,000.

5. How is the community involved in the program

  • The community has been very responsive. Volunteer contributions have come from a variety of professionals and community leaders including: police administration from Virginia Beach Police Department, school administration, teachers, hospital administrators from Virginia Beach General Hospital and Portsmouth Naval Hospital, hospital staff, private physicians, prosecutors from the Virginia Beach City Attorney’s Office and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, clergy, private businesses and civilian volunteers.
  • Congressional support from Congressman Owen B. Pickett
  • State support from Secretary of Education Beverly Sgro
  • Local support from Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf and City Manager James K. Spore
  • Local support from Virginia Beach City Council
  • Local support from Virginia Beach School Board and the Superintendent, Dr. Timothy Jenney

6. What are the major lessons learned from this program

  • Support, whether financially or through personal endeavors, must be obtained from all citizens from every walk of life, regardless of age, etc., to help combat youth gun violence in our society.
  • We must continually seek out new and creative alternative solutions and implement programs to help our youth become responsible and accountable adults.
  • Recognize the need for adequate funding and support to ensure the success of OCC. The funding and staffing of other community policing initiatives and programs are vital to the safety and success of our society.

7. Contact person:

Lieutenant Steve C. Smith

Virginia Beach Police Department

2509 Princess Anne Road, Bldg. #11 - Municipal Center

Virginia Beach, VA 23456

Phone: (757) 427-4890, Fax: (757) 426-5622

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