Click here for website

Friday, January 28, 2011


For decades, politicians have tried to break the cycle of violence by hiring more police and implementing new laws. Those strategies and other penalties have limitations because they do little to prevent the next generation from following the same destructive path.

City officials seem stumped on how to stop violence. In San Francisco, violence claimed 98 lives in 2008. Mayor Gavin Newsome said: “Nothing that I have tried to resolve has been more frustrating and vexing than solving the issue of why a 14-year-old would take the life of a 15-year-old with a weapon of war.”

The U.C. Berkeley School of Law researchers recently reported gangs terrorizing the same neighborhoods over and over again.

As a crime and violence prevention consultant, I know that gang leaders and drug dealers intimidate neighbors and instill fear against the police so they can control neighborhoods and continue, “business as usual.”

Police often focus on “hot spot” neighborhoods. However, after a sweep to eliminate criminals, neighbors need immediate follow up with “hands on” help to get organized. Without support, new criminals fill the void.

So how can the cycle of violence be broken?

Community activists can play an important role to end the social isolation that fuels crime, drug abuse and violence.

Activists can promote the simple act of neighbors working together which reduces fear and restores hope. Community activists can identify neighborhood leaders and enlist businesses, civic and church groups to support neighbors. They can assist neighbors in running meetings, planning an agenda and motivate neighbors to help strengthen family support.

When people feel connected and develop confidence, they stop the “no snitch” attitude and stop tolerating burglars, rapists, gangs, predators and drug dealers.

Ideas to keep neighborhood groups going and growing:
1. Neighbors need good communication to stay connected with regular meetings, phone trees, emails and, possibly, a newsletter.
2. Community leaders (neighbors, churches, civic groups) can help plan social gatherings, block parties, establish block parent programs, map neighborhoods for safety, create community gardens, plan youth safety day, implement emergency preparedness and help other neighbors form “Neighborhood Watch” groups.
3. Local officials can promote citizen involvement and reward neighbors for creating safer neighborhoods with trees, benches, swings, improved lighting, etc.
4. Neighborhood and civic groups can sponsor youth poster or essay contests.
5. Business groups or agencies can promote healthy competition between neighborhood groups. They might promote jump rope, basketball, skateboard, singing and dancing contests.
6. Local officials can honor and recognize neighborhood leaders!

Together neighbors provide a check and balance and reduce the social isolation that tolerates bullies, domestic violence and destructive youth behavior. When neighbors work together, they become role models, mentors, speak up and help solve problems.

Citizen involvement creates healthy, safe neighborhoods for families – and helps to reverse the cycle of violence.
- Talk to your local representative and your police chief.
- Offer assistance to help your community.
- Make presentations to local civic, business and youth groups. Get their input.
- Encourage community leaders to focus on community support for families.

Follow the example of Rebecca Kimbel, Area Governor of Toastmasters’ International. She joined Safe Kids Now and became a community activist. She makes presentations throughout Northern California and writes articles for her local newspapers.

By Stephanie L. Mann
For more information:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Twenty-two year old Jared Loughner killed six and wounded 14 innocent people in Tucson. The public reaction; a “deranged monster.” Others blame political speeches. Loughner’s friends called him a “social outcast.” (Contra Costa Times 1-10-11)

This tragic event is a wake up call. We need to identify root causes and examine solutions for violent behavior. Human beings have the power to make choices for good or evil regardless of what has happened in the past.

Violent people were often victims. They never learned how to look within to find their own identity. They feel victimized and powerless. Lacking self-awareness, they can spiral out of control by dwelling on past traumas or injustices. Anger, if left unresolved, grows into rage and confused thinking. They blame others and may seek a cause to feel powerful. Their ego says, “I am right and others are wrong” as they shut down their conscience and play god. If no one intervenes, they look for a victim to relieve their pain and feel in control. I.e. a rapist attacks a vulnerable woman, a predator attacks a child, and an angry husband abuses and isolates his wife. This is spiritual ignorance at its worst.

Loughner was not born “deranged” but anger made him think and act in self-destructive ways. He became an outcast and felt justified in hurting others. Mass murderers are often “loner” with “no remorse.”

How can we prevent children from becoming a social outcast?

Consider these ideas:

1. Spiritual ignorance – Children growing up with mental, physical or sexual abuse at home learn, the biggest bully wins. Violent movies, video games and TV reinforce that message. Without spiritual understanding of self, young people do not learn healthy life skills to help them handle feelings of love or hate. A spiritually off centered child can become a bully or the victim of a bully. If human (spiritual) beings dwell on anger, they can become self-destructive or may turn their anger on the community.

What you can do…
Look within your family, set boundaries, listen, demonstrate respect for each other and speak without anger. Do not tolerate bully behavior at home or in your neighborhood. Children need strong, caring families to learn self-awareness and self-discipline.

2. Social alienation fuels violence – When young people feel isolated and lack a network of support from family, friends, neighbors or a religious family, they struggle to develop self-confidence and courage.

What you can do… Successful parents create a network of support around children and seek wisdom from family, friends, teachers and neighbors. A network of support builds trust. Encourage your network to correct unacceptable behavior. Children will develop respect for others and their property. A caring network offers encouragement, mentors and role models. Involved citizens demonstrate how to become contributing members of the community.

We can make our homes and neighborhoods safe places to live and help young people from “falling through the cracks” or becoming “social outcasts.” United, we have the power to create peace at home and in our communities.

Stephanie L. Mann, Crime and Violence Prevention Consultant
Safe Kids Now!