photo taken from video footage of the incident (128455)

As many others did, I watched the video of a young girl nearly beaten to death by other teenage girls in horror while a crowd stood by and watched. My first instinct was to wonder what happened to cause such depravity in my community. But this is not just an issue in communities of more color. I watched other recent videos where similar brutality occurred, including one on Long Island with kids who looked nothing like the ones in the Flatbush Avenue McDonald’s, but it was just as vicious. However, one difference I believe is that many of the young people in the Long Island attack have a social network and fabric that can catch them before they fall any further. Many young people in Flatbush and similar communities do not.

I also thought about growing up in New York City and witnessing and hearing about horrific fights and violence. It seems that our young women are more and more involved in these acts, so we must become “Our Sister’s Keeper” as well.

Just as disgusting in that three-minute-long video is how long people, including adults, stood by and did nothing. Absolutely nothing. We cannot ignore the disturbing reality that the crowd recorded the scene without intervening. We must address this need to video violence then post it to social media. Our obsession with social media only encourages and increases the penchant for violence and desensitizes us even more.

Whether this type of youth violence has increased or technology has brought it more to the forefront is almost irrelevant to the need for immediate action. My prayers are with the young woman who became the victim of this brutal, barbaric assault. The young women who participated in the assault must be held fully accountable for their actions. Still I pray for them as well that they learn why this is unacceptable before their shameful, violent behavior leads to death—someone else’s or their own.

While our police have to be involved, we must resist the knee-jerk reaction to believe that their involvement will solve this deeply rooted issue. If more police were the answer, the violence I remember growing up with would have ceased. It is not the police who stood by and did nothing in that McDonald’s. No one in the crowd even thought to call 911. Police did not close after-school programs and centers so that kids would hangout at McDonald’s instead of a supervised environment after school. Police don’t upload these videos to sites like World Star and help them go viral.

This type of youth brutality only proves the need for increased funding for violence interrupter programs and others that would further engage students in extracurricular activities, especially those let out of school in highly populated transit corridors. It is also my hope that parents discuss this tragedy with their children to educate them on the myriad of things that went wrong.

The fact is, we know what we need to do. We know what’s missing in these kids’ lives and in the communities in which they reside. We just have to do it and fix it. And yes, that includes people being held responsible. Personal responsibility and structural social change are not separate but intersect and are helplessly intertwined. There is no excuse to justify such behavior. At the same time, these are issues that must be addressed immediately.

Lastly, there is one thing we all can do today. The group of young people you pass by every single day on the way to work and back—engage them. You can start with a simple “good morning,” “good afternoon” or “good night.”

It’s true what they say: Invisible people act invisibly.

Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn) is the deputy leader of the New York City Council and co-chairs the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence.