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Make the killing stop

ELINOR TATUM Publisher and Editor in Chief | 7/27/2012, 10:16 a.m.
New York, Chicago, Newark, Los Angeles and now Aurora. When will the killing stop? From...
When guidance counselors need to care

New York, Chicago, Newark, Los Angeles and now Aurora. When will the killing stop?

From coast to coast, north to south, the level of violence in our communities is rising and there seems to be no end in sight.

The New York City police commissioner has used stop-and-frisk as a solution and a scapegoat. However it's defined, we all know it does not work. Just this past week, we lost 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan to gun violence on a playground in the Bronx; days earlier, a 3-year-old was shot at a Brooklyn Playground; and in the midst of all this, a crazed gunman killed a dozen people and wounded more than 50 others in a Colorado movie theater. The violence has reached epidemic proportions and needs to stop.

Given the inexorable menace of violence, we are citing a number of possible remedies.

Recently, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson said we need more police, but more than just more police, we need the beat cop back. It is community policing that appears to really make the difference in mitigating the level of violence on our streets.

When David Dinkins was mayor, he made community policing a priority. He assigned police to the communities through a program called Cops and Kids, which provided more policemen for the force and more resources for young people.

Getting police out of their cars and onto the streets, having them know their neighbors, made the difference. Even so, he was concerned with the increasingly lethal spread of Black-on-Black violence.

Rarely are the police actually engaged directly with the community. With all the cuts that have been made, some communities are lucky if they even see a police car during the course of the day--seeing a foot patrolman is even less likely.

We need our police to know our children and our children to know them. We need our police to be worthy of the respect of our children and adults alike. The only way we can stem the tide is to create a partnership between the police and the communities in which they serve that is based upon mutual respect and a true commitment to peace and harmony.

Granted, this is not a quick or easy fix, but it could be a vital step to bring the communities back together so a vigil to mourn the loss of a young one is not the only reason we come together.

Equally importantly, our children need other outlets to express themselves. They need jobs, they need recreation and they need the arts--not just in school, but outside of school, on weekends and during the summer. They need opportunity and they need chances to make their lives better. They need college counseling and people who believe in them, who can help them get into college and succeed.

We need to improve our schools so our children actually get out of high school with a decent education and graduate at acceptable numbers without tutorial and remedial classes. These efforts will help keep many of them out of harm's way and put them on the path of success and achievement.

We can't wait for the next incident to happen. We must demand change and help now. Our kids do not need to be another lifeless statistic on the playground at 4 years of age. They need to be on the swings, slides and jungle gyms, pretending to be astronauts, firefighters, doctor, lawyer, teachers or presidents.

We need to give our children their dreams back and take away our nightmares. We need to live in a place where we are not terrified every time our children leave the house, wondering if they will ever return. If we don't change it now--if something isn't done to reduce the violence--our nightmares will never end, they will just get worse.