09/07/07 — A future long lost: 19-year-old’s death not just another crime story

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A future long lost: 19-year-old’s death not just another crime story

Last week, a 19-year-old’s life ended in the home of a Dudley resident after an alleged home invasion.

The young man, who was not even legally an adult, was among a group of armed assailants who decided to break into the home. Moments later, shots were fired, and he was dead.

Now, there are two levels of thinking here. First, that the 19-year-old should not have been there in the first place and deserved what he got. Someone who breaks into a house has no right to suppose he or she will be safe — or even that he or she will make it out alive.

So many will dismiss this as just another story about another criminal. It was justice — eye for an eye — one more no-good off the streets and a message sent to anyone else contemplating such a crime.

But the second level is more telling — and more interesting — to those who really want to figure out how to stop the violence and other evils that are threatening the futures of many county youths and this community.

You have to wonder what prompts a 19-year-old to make a decision like this. Did he come from a challenging home environment? Did he feel like he had nothing to offer an employer so he had no choice but to turn to crime? Did he succumb to the lure of money that attracts so many young people to drugs and guns?

Until we can find out what put him into that house, we cannot really figure out how to help other teens like him before they make similar deadly choices.

And the questions and answers are more far-reaching than that.

Before this community can Stop the Violence, end gangs or beat the drug trade out of Wayne County, we have to know the root causes for the ills that we are trying to eliminate.

We can have all the programs in the world, spout all the statistics we want about crime going down and enforcement efforts working and even talk about all the young people who are succeeding and changing their lives.

But if there is even one lost like this young man, we have to know there is still more work to be done.

There is no way to really know what took that 19-year-old to that home that night — or what path led him to the life he chose.

But if we are going to address crime, as well as the futures of our children and the safety of our homes, we are going to have to do all we can to find out.

We lost this young man years ago. Maybe there is another out there just waiting to be saved.

It certainly is worth trying.

Published in Editorials on September 7, 2007 10:47 AM