For decades, politicians and community leaders have perpetuated myths as the cycle of drug abuse, gangs and violence continued from one generation to another.
The 5 myths are:
1. Police can keep us safe.
2. Money will solve problems.
3. Laws control behavior.
4. Racism keeps the community down.
5. Poverty keeps people from progressing.
Myths have some truth but they don’t change community behavior.
Myth #1 Police can keep us safe.
Police have a limited role. An additional 100,000 police on the streets can increase response time, as their job is to react to crime. The national average is 2.5 police for every 1000 citizens. The police cannot keep us safe.
Myth #2 Money will solve problems.
In the past 40 years, billions have been spent on education, programs, home security, guards, swat teams, training, scanning equipment, shot spotter and surveillance cameras. Money doesn’t stop rival gangs, demand for drugs or violence on our streets. As an area receives funding, violators move to another neighborhood.
Myth #3 Laws control behavior.
A politician’s job is to keep the public safe. That is critical for national security but laws have limited power. Law-abiding citizens obey laws. Criminals, gangs, pimps and drug dealers pay no attention.
Myth #4 Racism keeps the community down.
The blame game divides and distracts from real solutions. Blaming police or blaming people just because they look different perpetuates anger. Anger gives disconnected youth an excuse to join rival gangs as gang leaders gain a false sense of power. Gangs, like warring tribes, turn youth into uneducated, uncivilized men.
Myth #5 Poverty keeps people from progressing.
Politicians gain power as they create an illusion of compassion. For decades, billions of dollars have been spent on programs including the “War on Poverty” and the “War on Drugs.” In our zeal to “help” poor people, we destroyed their self-confidence and motivation. We created dependency.
We are at a crossroads…will security require more surveillance and less freedom or will we focus on supporting neighborhoods and strengthening families?
Americans can no longer ignore our largest group of crime victims…children. They are “canaries in the mine.”
Our national goal must be to strengthen families. Freedom is an inner journey with support for families and disconnected neighbors.
We need a major shift in thinking to create peaceful cities. We need:
1. A spiritual awakening to raise children with a conscience.
2. Community participation to create strong communities.
Ever wonder how low-income citizens get off drugs when they don’t have money to pay for medication or counseling?
I worked with the homeless for 4 years and started a support group for men. They have incredible stories of pain and survival. However, they learned how to take charge of their lives. (Foundation for writing, "Street Safe Kids.")
When youth understand their potential, they make responsible choices. Children need support to discover their strong, resilient inner power and identity. Most inner city youth, do not join gangs, take drugs or become violent but they do need a supportive, involved neighborhood.
City leaders can support neighborhood involvement by providing stipends to train citizen community coaches. Youth will see neighbors participating in problem solving and neighborhood projects, as they become teachers and mentors.
Civic, church and community groups who know and trust each other should be encouraged to adopt one block to help build relationships with neighbors. As community support grows, cities will become safer for everyone.
Stephanie L. Mann, Crime and Violence Prevention Consultant
Author: “The Adopt-A-Block Guidebook: 10 steps to a safe and healthy neighborhood.”
“Street Safe Kids: 10 step guide to building self-esteem and staying centered.”