Solve this problem today

Published 8:51 pm Thursday, June 17, 2010

The staff of the Suffolk News-Herald takes this space in our daily edition seriously.

This opinion space is the newspaper’s opportunity to speak out on the issues impacting the areas we cover and a time for us to offer our thoughts, our ideas and our solutions to those issues.

We offer endorsements prior to elections, we criticize decisions by our leaders, question the practices of our government, praise the work of volunteers, congratulate the successes of our city and mourn the losses of dear friends.

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But today, we write an opinion as if we are at a loss for words.

In today’s editorial, we ask for help, we signal the distress call on something that is becoming a serious problem and ask for others to join us in finding a solution.

During the past few days, we have covered at least two stories that have brought us to this distressing point. The first was about marijuana found in the cubby of a 4-year-old special needs child at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School, and the second was about a 3-year-old discovering a gun near an outdoor play area.

But things didn’t just start going south with the discovery of that marijuana at Mack Benn. There also was the recent shooting incident that injured a student who had just gotten home from school, the pre-teens who are accused of burglarizing a downtown thrift store, and the youth who were filmed and eventually broadcast on YouTube taking part in a fight after getting off a bus.

Separately, these stories are each tragic and upsetting. But together, these stories signal a horrifying trend for Suffolk and its future.

No longer do we worry about our children getting good grades in school, but rather what they may see, find or take part in when they step off a school bus.

No longer are we concerned about each of our children growing up to have successful careers — we are worried about them growing up at all.

There are groups working feverishly to ensure the youth of Suffolk are given the education, love and mentoring they need to become successful members of society. There are groups within the city ensuring there are vibrant programs to help keep youth out of trouble and off the streets. And there are groups working to reduce the gang problem that is luring youth to a life of drugs, violence and incarceration.

Our wish is to never again have to cover stories about children finding bags of drugs, walking up on a shooting or happening upon a gun in their church’s play area.

But, unfortunately, us hoping for such a thing will not make it reality.

Today, we use this space not to criticize anyone but to warn. We use this space not to celebrate, but to ask for help.

Today Suffolk has a problem, but it is our hope a solution can be found to ensure this problem doesn’t continue to tomorrow.