Want to really prevent school/community violence: Try This! First, understand that our schools are merely a reflection of the community that it serves. When we build stronger communities, change will occur in our schools.
Next, we start getting "smart" about crime, and not just "tough" on crime. Being smart means understanding being tough is not "the strategy," it is only part of the strategy. It should be clear by now that the "tough" stuff (alone) simply has not worked. This strategy has simply focused our collective attention/resources on symptoms and not the problems.
Our focus/resources should be directed at the root causes (those things that lead to criminal activity), rather than simply getting tough on the violation after-the-fact (enforcement). Why, simply because in most cases, criminal activity is the symptom of a problem - not the problem.
Thanks to our law enforcement community, crime statistics indicate that crime has gone down significantly in the Edgewood community. However, the true measurements are really how safe do the residents feel and the perception of Edgewood by the external community. Edgewood continues to be the most neglected area of Harford County.
It appears that over the last decade Edgewood has been neglected by many of its residents, the business and the faith-based community and, most of all, by the elected officials (with few exceptions), who are rarely seen/heard from, except during the election season. So the root causes that lead to criminal activity are either being ignored or, in some cases, enabled.
Our leaders should do what every successful business does and that is develop a "strategic" plan for the success of our communities (especially Edgewood). This strategy should start by identifying/including all of the stakeholders (public/private/non-profit sectors), and not just the usual participants; identify the role for each stakeholder (including residents) and hold them accountable. This would help reduce finger pointing and devote more effort to accomplishing the mission because many hands makes labor light.
Some objectives might include (but not be limited) to the following:
Create the position of director of public safety and security: This person should have the ability to bring all of the stakeholders (public/private/non-profits) to the table. The director coordinates the development, implementation and management of the strategic plan. In short, he/she ensures that all stakeholders are all working on the same goals and objectives.
Year-round school: Stop tinkering around the edges of public education. Children are raising children and have been for at least a couple of generations. The best chance that we have to teach our children what it means to be a productive member of society is in our schools. The longer we keep them in a structured environment, the better the chances are for developing productive citizens.
Tracking our students: We should know what activity every school-age child is involved in at the end of the school day. We could develop the capacity to know who is involved in after-school employment, school-related activities, clubs, etc. And for those who are not involved in some productive activity, we need to make it our business to get them involved and keep them involved in something positive.
Develop, pass and enforce truancy legislation: Statistics reveal that there are far fewer individuals who are high school graduates in the criminal justice system than those who are.
Vocational education: We need a concerted effort to develop a career training program/school for those young people who will not qualify for or who just don't want to attend college at this time.
Require students to wear uniforms in school: The current dress codes leaves too much to the administrator's discretion. We need to make such things as SIMPLE as possible.
We know we can't simply arrest our way to better communities (although law enforcement certainly has its place). Use development as a tool to help build stronger communities, and limit the number of new multi-family developments in troubled communities.
Develop, pass and aggressively enforce strong landlord legislation that will hold landlords accountable for the tenants to whom they rent.
Get the government (local, state and federal) out of the child rearing (parent discipline) business. Children need to have a "healthy fear" of and "respect" for their parent(s). Parent pressure over peer-pressure and/or the pressure to join gangs.
Last ,but certainly not least, if we can create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented illegal residents, then let's do the same for our documented legal residents. Create a comprehensive reentry pathway to restore opportunities for our young men/women who can't find work, get housing or vote, because of their criminal past. The same arguments that are being made for creating opportunities for non-citizens is especially true for our legal citizens.
Jansen M. Robinson, Chair
Edgewood Community Council