Last night, one more young person was shot and killed in Wilmington. It is one more tragedy in a city that can’t really take much more of this. But the other thing that the city really can’t take more of is its leadership not facing this issue head on. Last Thursday, the Wilmington City Council passed a resolution asking for the CDC to come to Wilmington to study the causes of violence here. The resolution passed with all votes present (Theo Gregory was away), but the resolution’s sponsor, Hanifa Shabazz, explained why she thought that this was needed:
“What I’m hoping is that we will be able to get some of the supportive resources that have been proven through the process of studying this learned behavior, this violent behavior that’s plaguing our community,” said Shabazz, whose district includes neighborhoods routinely affected by crime.
Shabazz calls the city’s violence a “pandemic” that’s spreading among youth as they become “desensitized” to violence, due to generations of inequality dating back to slavery.
“We all know there’s a post traumatic syndrome that the African American community is still suffering from, from slavery,” said Shabazz. “That has not been cured.”
She said decades of inadequate education, unemployment and other lack of opportunities, on top of the post traumatic stress of slavery and the easy access to guns has created a community filled with dysfunction.
I doubt that pointing at slavery as a cause is at all useful, but addressing the effects of *present* terrorism on some of these communities is a worthwhile thing to deal with. So are better Educational opportunities and opportunity for employment (both of which are really key to resolving the problem and it is really not clear what the CDC will say differently). But here is part of the City’s challenge:
Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz, its primary sponsor, was saddened to hear of Monday night’s fatal shooting, noting that she has a grandson the same age as the boy who was killed.
Shabazz called the latest homicide “continuing proof” that wide-ranging efforts by public safety experts, community leaders and faith-based organizations have not been able to curb gun violence in the city and the CDC’s help is needed.
“We have tried every type of medicine to cure this illness,” she said, calling on the residents to press elected officials to write to the CDC, urging the federal agency to conduct the study and direct resources to the solve problem.
There is simply no universe in which anyone could claim that the city has done everything they could to curb this violence, and points to the real reason for the request for CDC help — passing the buck. City Council (not all, but still) is looking to outsource the definition of the problems instead of rolling up their sleeves and getting focused on the genuinely tough work that dealing with these problems would entail. It would require learning about what other communities have done that was successful, helping to pull together real policy and plans to implement some solutions, insist on some accountability for results and stop helping some of the usual suspects to protect and expand their turf. The lack of accountability of many of the non-profits who claim they are dealing with this is a genuine problem and CDC studies won’t help that. Programs that *do* seem to work (but don’t provide the requisite photo ops) could be better supported — setting up some system of accountability would help those programs that *are* working to get better support and the programs that can’t meet their goals have to survive on their own.
For some ideas here, I’m going to rescue my own comment from last Thursday’s Open Thread:
You know, one of the things I really wonder about is how much money it would take to help control the city’s crime. The WPD is already something like 23 or 24% of the City’s budget. I already think that we don’t necessarily need more money for police — but a better use of these resources is definitely in order. Plus the State has this pretty massive Homeland Security apparatus and I know that Steve and I agree that some of these resources could be put to use in the city to help.
The first thing I’m going to ask is how much does it cost to think more creatively about the city’s issues? Seriously — I read pretty obsessively about the solutions other cities are thinking about and I know people in the city who have been thinking about and proposing interesting solutions for awhile.
Then I’d ask if we could take a good look at existing resources and ask if you could organize them and change their availability so that they are focused on neighborhoods at risk? For instance — Maryland has this Maryland Family Network with Family support centers that exist to help at-risk families learn better parenting skills, maybe even meet parent’s goals for further education or work training, how to prepare toddlers for learning, help parents get medical or social service help they need, provide a supportive network of other parents and so on. Lots of this already exists at the DHSS and other agencies. Why not package it all together and place a center directly in at-risk neighborhoods. And if you think about that, you have the beginnings of what could be the Harlem Children’s project in these neighborhoods.
How much does it cost to provide housing redevelopment incentives or economic incentives? If you use the money to get houses on the tax rolls, maybe using some loans you might get some of that money back. Can you do economic development on Union or Lincoln Sts that might not need the big company giveaways?
The real big ticket item is schools and we’ve been through that. Investment across the board is definitely needed, but perhaps we should take a hard look at what is already available and build from there.
No one expects the City to resolve this problem on their own, but the City needs to be a part of thinking about solutions, figuring out what is available and working the the State and local non-profits to find out what they can do now, what they might be able to do with some extra resources and what they might be able to do TOGETHER. Who in City Council would even do this kind of work? Not enough of them, that’s for sure, even though some of these approaches really even don’t need much from the Administration to make happen. It does take recognizing that there are solutions out there, there are people who are at the State who are specifically supposed to work on some of the issues that concern us, and it is up to us to ask for this help. The CDC may or may not do this study (President Obama gave the CDC permission finally to study gun violence by Executive Order — but since Congress allocates funds, no one is sure whether they’ll do it.) and it is often referenced as possibly a way to get funds to deal with the issue. Maybe, but how about looking at some of the resources already available at the State level? Has anyone even asked any of these folks how they can help?