Thursday, April 23, 2009

Shots Fired!

First of all, let me start this article with a caveat. I love Youngstown, and I do not believe that generally speaking it is a dangerous place to live or work. Let me repeat...I do not share the typical suburban perception of crime in Youngstown. However, we do have a problem with people shooting guns in the city. The other morning about 1:30 AM I awoke to the sound of automatic gun fire very near my bedroom window. I looked out the window and saw a Ford van traveling down my street without headlights or tail lights. I immediately called the YPD. Some time later several cruisers responded to a location on the street behind my house. Several officers then began searching for something with their flashlights. I imagine they were searching for bullets.

This is not the first time that I have heard gunfire in my neighborhood. In fact, it was but a night later that I once again heard automatic gunfire. This must stop! This is not the Welcome Wagon that we want to greet new residents.

A young couple I know that recently moved here from Brooklyn with their infant told me that they too had recently had a similar experience with gunfire. They told me that although they love the city and want to reside here; the one thing that will make them move will be the sounds of gunfire ringing out in the night. I can't say as I blame them. What parent wants their child to grow up in fear? What's more, this is not unfounded fear. There were recently two incidents involving semiautomatic rifles within days. A house on the 100 block of Cleveland Street on Youngstown's South Side was hammered by more than 40 bullets Tuesday, the majority of them from an AK-47 assault rifle. In Warren, there was a drive-by shooting in the 2000 block of Wick Street Southeast in Warren. This incident left one child injured and two dead according to the Vindicator. My guess is that this is but the tip of the iceberg as warm weather is approaching and combined with the poor economy this could lead to more crime.

There are a few solutions to the problem available. One of them is something called ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System. The system detects real time gunfire. A picture of a city street is displayed on a police dispatcher's computer screen and red dots pinpoint the location where there was open fire seconds before. No one in the neighborhood has to call 911 to report the gunfire. The technology zeroes in on the precise location, sends the information to dispatcher and sounds an alert. More about the system can be read here.

The Vindicator reported about the system several months ago and indicated that the system "could" be in place by summer. The operative word in the article is "could". As residents who love this city I think it is time to let city government know that "could" is not good enough. We need the Vindicator to report that the city "shall" put this system in place. Please contact your city council representative and let him or her know that they must address the problem of gunfire in the city. For contact information please look here.

In addition to,or in lieu of, ShotSpotter, I believe we should push for implementation of Citi-Stat, technological crime fighting tool. I have written about this program before and I still believe it offers the best solution to our problems. To read more about this program go here.

Recently, I have noticed many references in the press to Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities. This is because her work is as timely today as it was when printed in 1961. To quote,"...the public peace - the sidewalk and street peace- of cities is not kept primarily by the police. It is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards amongst the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves. In some city areas - older public housing projects and streets with very high population turnover are often conspicuous examples - the keeping of public sidewalk law and order is left almost entirely to the police and special guards. Such places are jungles. No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, casual enforcement of it has broken down".

We must take this to heart. We,as residents of Youngstown, must be vigilant and keep watch in our neighborhoods for illegal activity, and report it when we see it. With the recent increase in foreclosures and abandandoned properties this is especially important as abandoned properites often serve as havens for those with criminal intent. Report suspicious activity and encourage the city to have these buildings boarded up. In addition, there are many block watches in the city. Please join the one in your neighborhood. For a list of neighborhood organizations please look here. Together we can fight crime.


Tyler said...

And yet, more people are buying guns and ammunition. Sad times.

Mike Prelee said...

I would like to see Shot Spotter combined with some sort of surveillance to be really effective. I'm not sugesting blanketing the city with cameras ala London but having a few dozen cameras at busy intersections would help idntify who is leaving the scene of a shooting.

I also wouldn't mind if Mayor Williams and Chief Jimmy Hughes came forward with a better plan to reduce crime. Right now it seems like they are always reacting rather than being proactive. I know they have efforts underway (saturation patrols, weed & seed) but they are not coming across as the strong leadership the city needs on the issue of crime.

downforce said...

I also would feel better knowing shotspotter was being implicated. Law enforcement officials need to utilize the technology available in the most affective ways possible. their job is a difficult one. I agree to that they cannot be merely reactionary, their message of zero tolerance needs to be strong. I also agree that it is our responsibility to help take care of our own neck of the woods, so to speak. From reporting suspicious behavior to teaching by example to the young ones in our neigborhoods. One way that I try to help is trying to get to know my neighbors and show them that Iam watching my kids and who they play with and wont put up with kids running rampid and just plain being disrespectful of those who live on their street. If my kids and their friends are doing something questionable, My wife or I let 'em know that its wrong and if you want respect, give it.. Kids will be kids but I think you as a parent can show the neighbors that you arent going to sit back and do nothing and let kids think its ok to be distructive or just be unsafe. On my street cars sometimes speed and when I see kids in the street I let them know to be aware. You know the neigbors are watching, lead by example. Let it be known that we are here for each other, I'll watch yours, you watch mine, We've heard it before right, It truly does take a community. I love my little piece of the YO. I want nothing more than to be a small part of making it better.