Programs exist to keep youth off the streetsWritten by Bob Frantz | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, the gang problem that partially fueled the Oct. 15 riots in North Toledo is real, but its presence has absolutely nothing to do with white supremacists, white cops or the White Sox. There are violent groups of dangerous young men, many of them minorities, bringing fear and loathing to the streets of Toledo.
In the past few days, Toledo police have confirmed that a significant number of the rioters arrested were indeed connected to gangs such as the Crips, the Bloods, the Folks, and Stickney 33. I don’t know Stickney 33 from WD-40 or SPF-45, but I do know they’ve been charged with serious crimes ranging from robbery to arson to aggravated rioting and felonious assault of a police officer. I know they’re a menace, and the police are under pressure to shut them down.
Defeating gangs is a dicey proposition for the cops, primarily because of many gangs’ racial composition. When an officer patrols an urban neighborhood late at night and follows a hunch by questioning a group of minorities showing similar colors, he’s charged with profiling. If a crime is actually in progress, and he responds to force with force, he’s accused of brutality. If more black gang members are arrested than white gang members, the cop’s a flat-out racist.
Yes, many tools police have historically been used to fight crime and protect citizens have been taken out of their hands when it comes to gangs, which means police simply cannot fight gang-bangers on their terms. The only chance is for the community to fight them — before they start banging in the first place.
At a community forum on Saturday, an oft-repeated suggestion was floated once again by a church secretary: we need more government-funded programs to give kids something to do.
On its face, the idea is sound: find some activities for the kids to enjoy, and they’ll have less time to hang around with thieves, vandals, dealers and other derelicts who would like nothing more than to lure them into their lifestyle.
Strange thing is, those programs already exist. The City of Toledo is very fortunate to have a fully funded program available to every young person in the city, no matter his race, color or creed. The taxpayers have staffed this program with hundreds of professionals and completely stocked it with enough materials and equipment to run it five days a week, with additional opportunities on weekends.
This program is so expansive, and provides so many opportunities for kids, it’s virtually impossible to understand how a kid can choose the gang lifestyle over it.
It’s called school.
Speakers at the forum blamed the violent behavior on poverty. Being poor makes these kids frustrated, they say, and they don’t see a way out. Here’s a message for them: learning doesn’t cost a damn thing. It’s absolutely free.
So, parents of would-be, and could-be gang-bangers, take note: you want your kids to stay off the street, away from drugs and out of jail? Then drag their butts to school. For nearly seven hours a day they’ll have organized activities, just like the ones the speakers were begging for at Saturday’s forum. They’ll be so busy, they’ll be begging for a break.
And when school’s out? There’s another tremendous publicly funded organization that awaits your child. It’s called a library.
It’s a great place for your kid to go when he’s got time to kill. Inside, he just might find something that opens his eyes to the world of possibilities that exist for him.
Of course, the library has to close some time, and that’s when your kid can head straight to the corner to hang with the other ”victims” of circumstance. Or he can head to a job.
You know — a place to pick up a few bucks his parents may not be able to give him. He could push a broom. Stock a shelf. Mow a lawn. Flip a burger. The opportunities to fill your kid’s time are endless.
No one is holding your child back, Mr. and Mrs. Banger. In fact, the government is giving him numerous free programs to push himself forward, while plenty of other opportunities are waiting to be discovered. It’s a matter of choice — and not just his. Your child’s eyes will remain focused on his plight, until you finally decide to show him the light.
Bob Frantz hosts ”Bob Frantz and the Morning News” each weekday on WSPD 1370 AM. He may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.