04/27/06 — Good start: Toward taking back our neighborhoods

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Good start: Toward taking back our neighborhoods

It was a poignant comment:

“My concern is all the crime and the gangs. If we help one another, we can heal this place. It’s a dangerous game being played out there.”

Speaking was Mrs. Diane Weeks. She was among citizens gathered on Franklin Bakery property in the first of a series of neighborhood meetings with city officials. The mayor and city manager and members of the City Council were there to listen.

News-Argus reporter Kenneth Fine wrote of Mrs. Weeks being choked up as she called for fellow citizens to take back their neighborhood from drug dealers, gangs and thugs.

But “taking back the neighborhood” could face vexing problems.

Mrs. Estella Johnson observed that some children in the neighborhood become involved in crime “at a young age.” Because of their problems with the law, they can’t get jobs “and they don’t have an education.”

“They fall through the crack,” she observed, appealing for an answer to the question of “how are we going to help these kids?”

Those kids, obviously, tend to perpetuate the problem into a continuing cycle of crime and violence. They become the drug users and dealers and gang members who ultimately take over neighborhoods.

This was precisely the message the mayor and council members and the city manager needed to hear. We can be assured that they are genuinely concerned or they wouldn’t have scheduled the neighborhood meetings.

And the city needs to recognize the sincerity and the courage of the citizens who came and spoke their concerns and fears.

Finding the solutions may be far more difficult than identifying the problem.

But for citizens and city officials to recognize and focus on the problem is the only way to start.

The series of neighborhood meetings could prove to be invaluable in our efforts to be a better and safer community.

An in-depth critique and follow-up strategy meetings will be imperative.

Published in Editorials on April 27, 2006 10:30 AM