Youngstown, Ohio Police Chief Rod Foley told the Youngstown Vindicator, “We arrest them walking the streets with these guns and ask why. They say because it is dangerous out here, but that’s because they are all carrying these guns.”
Chief Foley was talking about juveniles who played a significant role in the uptick in homicide in Youngstown in 2011. The city recorded two more homicides in 2011 than in 2010.
The city had a total of 23 homicides in 2011. There were 21 homicides in 2010.
Of the 23 homicides, there were 18 people under age 21 involved in the crimes as either victims or accused perpetrators. Seven of those people were juveniles under 18.
Several homicides remain unsolved, meaning the figure for young people involved in the crimes could be higher if those not apprehended also are under 21, reported the Vindicator.
Foley also told the Vindicator, “The [word] on the street is that there are a lot more young kids carrying guns. That is why we want to get some citywide programs going in order to have more interdiction with these kids.”
As Chief Foley talks about programs he should first listen to what the “kids” are saying. The young people are telling the police they carry guns because it dangerous. That is what the young people in Boston where saying when Professor David Kennedy came to town with Operation Ceasefire.
Kennedy suggested that a significant majority of violence is committed by, and on, a very small fraction of the population. He refers to the small minority as the five percent.
Violence in inner city neighborhoods is terrifying and a part of everyday life for those who work the streets. Kennedy said, “The national homicide rate is now about 4 per 100,000, but the homicide rate for members of gangs and neighborhood turf groups is dramatically higher: as many as 3,000 per 100,000 a year.”
As Kennedy spent time in troubled neighborhoods he learned that the inhabitants, even the guys working the streets, didn’t like the life of terror and mayhem. He said drug dealers and gun toting thieves told him they were terrified and they hated the lifestyle.
What Operation Ceasefire did was to take a three pronged approach to gang violence. First, law enforcement determined the worst of the worst gangs and groups on Boston’s streets. They brought members of those gangs and associations to a meeting and told them that they were doing enormous damage to the community. They then offered them the assistance of the community and social services to go in a different direction. Finally, they made clear if the criminal conduct continued the wrath of law enforcement would sweep down upon them.
The operation worked and violence decline dramatically in Boston. There has been a resurgence of violence in Boston and Kennedy attributes it to a lack of commitment. “This cannot be someone’s pet project.” The operation must become ingrained in the community.
If Chief Foley is committed to turn the tide of youth violence it will take more than just another program. Success will depend on a commitment from the entire community—commitment of time, resources and ideas.
To read more: http://www.vindy.com/news/2011/dec/31/guns-and-the-young/