Stemming youth violence

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 3, 2006

I know a lot of people out there think I’m just some kind of “city-hater,” looking for every opportunity to dump on our home and the people who employed by the government.

I am not infrequently critical of what our government does, but I also believe that when a thing is being done well that it deserves praise. And there are many things our city government does well, I’m sure, like (EDITOR, PLEASE INSERT THREE OR FOUR THINGS SUFFOLK CITY GOVERNMENT DOES WELL HERE).

One thing I think the city is doing extremely well is addressing the youth violence situation. The effort is being headed up by Assistant City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn, with whom I am more impressed with each meeting.

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Last Thursday when we were short staffed I was asked to attend a press briefing Cuffee-Glenn was holding about the effort. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I had my socks knocked off.

If you recall, back in January, city council directed the city manager to tackle the youth violence problem after several shootings toward the end of ’05. Since then, a lot has been accomplished n appointing a task force, conducting focus group interviews, creating and conducting a scientific survey of resident opinions throughout the city. In July, two public information meetings will be held to share findings so far and solicit more opinion. A final plan is expected to be presented in August.

That’s fast work for a project (The Suffolk Initiative on Youth) of such scope and I’d like to praise those involved.

Cuffee-Glenn noted that this is a project that residents, too, appear to be interested in and willing, if not eager, to share their views and ideas.

The problem of increasing youth violence is not merely a Suffolk problem. It’s happening everywhere and there are many reasons for it, including anger on the part of poor black males at not being able to find jobs, the increased availability of handguns, and just a general coarsening of society. Any solution will need to have a heavy reliance on law enforcement, but securing public support for what could be perceived as extreme measures is critical to its success. I think the team in charge of this project has done fine work thus far and city leaders should pay close to attention to whatever recommendations come out of it.

No plan is any good unless it is implemented enthusiastically by those in charge. One need look no further than the recommendations of the 911 panel. While its findings and recommendations were lauded by all, nobody did much of anything about it. As a result, most experts say we’re not much safer from attack today than we were before 911. We just wait longer at the airports.