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To Prevent Violence, Louisville Teens Look at Neighborhood's Environment

A group of Louisville teenagers have examined their neighborhood’s environment with the hopes of preventing violence.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines the built environment as all of the physical parts of where a person lives and works, including homes, buildings, streets, open spaces and infrastructure.

Poverty and education level are known issue that lead to violence, but a person's surroundings can also be a factor when it comes to being exposed to violent acts, said Khalilah Collins, project manager for Parkland Algonquin California Teens in Action, which did the assessment.

"Because of abandoned houses, or bad lighting in a neighborhood, or no where to go and play and hang out. So, not that it makes you more violent, but it heightens the risk of violence occurring," she said.

PACT in Action is an organization aimed at preventing teen dating violence. Its members performed a built environment assessment in the neighborhoods surrounding California Park.

The teens surveyed the area between West Oak Street and West Breckinridge Street, and South 15th Street and Dixie Highway. The assessment took place over a two-week period between October and November 2014.

They observed sidewalk connectivity, broken sidewalks, vacancies, sidewalk surfaces and  the condition of curb ramps.

Anthony Shepard, 17, is a member of PACT in Action.

"We was looking for what was healthy in the neighborhood and what was unhealthy," said Shepard, who is a student at Iroquois High School. "We was also looking at the good things like parks, community gardens, art, graffiti and things that also reflect good on the neighborhood."

The teens said they found plenty of room for improvement—for example, many sidewalks were disconnected, and some blocks had no sidewalks at all.

They also said while most intersections had smooth ramps, ramps at alley entrances were in poor condition in the middle of nearly every block.

They also reported vacant structures and lots as having signs of neglect, including broken and boarded windows and trash accumulating on the property.

This assessment is expected to be one of many. Their goal is to perform the assessments in other neighborhoods in the 40210 area code.

"Eventually we're going to come up with a built environment assessment for each and every one, and we're going to break down what's good about this neighborhood and what can improve," Shepard said.

PACT is funded by Catholic Health Initiatives Violence Prevention Fund through a partnership between KentuckyOne Health and the Center for Women and Families.