This is a really good op-ed piece from The New York Times that concentrates on the lesser mentioned aspect of gun violence: violence within cities.
While much of the gun debate is focusing incorrectly on mass-killings (They should, but unfortunately they aren’t discussing homicides committed in urban and impoverished areas enough), this op-ed by Alex Kotlowitz introduces the “Chicago Murder Analysis”, a report that the Chicago Police Department issues every year.
In Chicago, within 15 years, 8083 people have been killed. What is interestingly enough, is that
…most of them in a concentrated part of the city. There’s one particularly startling revelation that gets little notice: in 2011, more than four-fifths of all murders happened in a public place, a park, an alleyway, on the street, in a restaurant or at a gas station
Philadelphia suffers from the same issue. Most murders occur in certain sections in this city. Mayor Michael Nutter, who seems more interested in upgrading his political position rather than fixing Philadelphia, has thrown a myriad of “solutions” at the problem.
The solutions, one such as focused deterrence is being implemented as an “experiment” in certain parts of Philadelphia. This model of violence deterrence has only short-term positive effects and has been a proven failure in the long-term.
Cities that have used this method confront “known criminals” in a community setting. The community tells them how their actions are hurting their neighborhood and asks them to stop. The police are also there, as well as the DA who tell them that if they are caught doing even one thing wrong, they will go to jail immediately. In return for not committing crimes, the city offers them services for work training or finding a job.
You can immediately see the issues with this. One being that you’ve just gathered a whole community of people in front of people who may or may not have had committed crimes in the past, so they know who you are.
Second, giving someone who is, for example, selling drugs, a “my way or the highway” deal is not healthy when you are speaking to them. Imagine yourself living in an impoverished neighborhood. You have no job skills due to the poor state of schools, possibly a broken home and this is the only way to pay the bills. You’re essentially speaking to people who have nothing to lose and threatening them. This simply doesn’t work.
Lastly, the city simply doesn’t have the resources to promise these people to help them find a job, go back to school, or develop job training. This goes doubly for Philadelphia where Governor Corbett has slashed public funding like a madman.
So where do we end up? We end up putting more people in prison. That’s it. And once the police feel the area is “safe” again because they’ve put those people in jail, they leave, and the community falls apart once again.
The op-ed also addresses another good point that President Obama is ignoring. As Kotlowitz puts it:
We report on the killers and the killed, but we ignore those who have been wounded or who have witnessed the shootings. What is the effect on individuals — especially kids — who have been privy to the violence in our cities’ streets?
Trauma plays a huge role in our lives. Personally, I think it’s why Philadelphia and the world itself is falling apart, but that is my opinion. Trauma goes untreated for most of us, causing much more pain onto ourselves and others.
One person that is treating trauma from violence is Dr. Ted Corbin, whose program, Healing Hurt People, addresses the trauma suffered from young men and teens who have been wounded and actually counsels them to talk through their trauma.
This program is meant to keep who are often seen repeatedly in emergency rooms out of them by providing connection to resources such as:
emotional support for post-traumatic stress
working with schools to help students affected by school violence
substance abuse treatment
after-school program referral
job training and placement
parenting education and support
Contrast this with focused deterrence and tell me which is the better solution? Dr. Corbin’s method provides no threats, no need for “snitching” as focused deterrence does, and most importantly keeps people not only out of the emergency room (or morgue), but out of jail.
It is unfortunate that Philadelphia has given it’s blessing for the focused deterrence plan, one of three “experimental” plans (I can’t mentioned the other two), that will affect the lives the hundreds of people in the city.
Philadelphia acknowledges that these are experimental; So guess what people of Philly? You might be possibly going to jail for plans that haven’t been data-driven and completely validated yet! You have been arrested over an experiment.