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Orange County Focus

COUNTYWIDE : Solutions Sought for Violent Crime

April 12, 1993|SHELBY GRAD

The National Issues Forum of Orange County will hold a discussion on violent crime this month.

But those who see the forum simply as an opportunity to vent their anger and frustration about carjackings and drive-by shootings should think again.

The goal of the April 21 discussion goes beyond measuring reaction to crime; it is designed to allow the public to suggest solutions.

Rather than having experts dominate the forum, a moderator will lead all participants in a round-table discussion in order to give everyone a chance to speak.

Those taking part in the forum will receive booklets filled with facts and figures so that all participants can share the same basic pool of facts.

The goal is to go beyond emotional rhetoric and to debate different ideas for reducing violent crime.

"We literally sit in a circle and talk," said Harriett Walther, executive director of the Irvine-based forum. "People come in well-informed and are willing to listen."

The forum comes at a time when many Americans have turned to television and radio talk shows and 800 phone numbers to express views about issues facing the nation.

"Ross Perot touched a button," Walther said, referring to the independent presidential candidate's use of an 800 number to solicit voters' views.

"People now want to be asked their opinions. They want people to listen to them."

Walther sees the forum as the next step, where the energy of public opinion is channeled toward reaching a consensus.

This month's forum will look at three ideas for reducing crime: being tougher on criminals, looking at the root causes of crime and focusing on the small percentage of criminals who commit many of the most violent crimes.

The forum will be videotaped and might be broadcast on KOCE Channel 50, Walther said.

"I think the forums are helpful. People get the sense that they are not just victims to what is going on," Walther said.

For more information, call (714) 724-1412.

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