Dan Lawlor: Providence Shouldn’t be a Crime Scene
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
I thought we were the Creative Capital. Why must we bury children? Why must we bury the young?
Three young adults in Providence were murdered last week. There is no reason. There is no purpose. Just murdered.
The next day, there were memorials- balloons, signs, posters. The next day, people across the city gathered, called, defied hate.
City and religious leaders have been calling for calm, more street workers for nonviolence, more opportunities for young people, and more efforts to eliminate violent and drug-dealing hot spots in the city.
In response to the recent violence in Colorado, the Rev Peter Morales wrote, “May the living victims find healing. May those who loved the dead find comfort. May we some day, some precious day, come to our senses."
The words still ring true.
The last few months have been hellish. From the shootings at a movie theater in Colorado, to Trayvon Martin's murder, to the riots in Anaheim, California (home of Disneyland), to bomb threats in Ohio, to police shootings in California, to stabbings and shootings in Providence, there is so much anger in this country. This summer even sports became tarnished with the Penn State Scandal. One less institution to trust.
The pain isn't new. The last few years have been drenched in hot temperatures and international sorrow. From the ecological disaster in the Gulf Coast, to the droughts, to the 40 million Americans suffering from “food insecurity,” to the struggles over deportation and separated families, to various extremist groups plotting or enacting shootings and terrorist attacks, to the ongoing debate around and reality of war, these are times of tension.
Timmy Murphy, a friend of my father and life long Rhode Islander, said, after another night of police breaking up fights, "It's the season. There's too much hate. People are so angry. They need more love. Less negative, more positive. Look, I'm not perfect, but I'm not perfectly stupid. We need to be able to say hello on the street without some saying "F--- off.""
Alex Kotlowitz has written a piece in Mother Jones called, "Plant Tomatoes. Harvest Low Crime Rates."
In certain Philadelphia neighborhoods, Kotlowitz notes, as the number of community gardens increased, so did opportunities to connect.
He writes, "Calls from neighbors complaining of nuisance crimes—acts like loitering or public urination or excessive noise—went up significantly in the immediate vicinity of the newly greened land. At first, [the coordinator] worried the land had attracted ne'er-do-wells, but what he came to realize is that it had emboldened neighbors to call the police for minor disturbances, something they hadn't done in the past. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has begun to look at greening as a tool for violence prevention."
Some neighborhoods – Valley, the North End, Smith Hill – that have seen more crime and violence lately are the forgotten neighborhoods of our city.
In Valley, Bergen, Harvest, and Andem St. all have foreclosures. Regent Ave has some great, multi-family homes, and some empty storefronts. The gas station near River Ave has been robbed and shot at, and sits opposite an empty office building. A grafitti tagger, Ucus, seems to be pretty prolific in the neighborhood. My landlord has mentioned tenant turnover and drug-dealing on Harold St.
Some of our streets are broken. People put up with robberies and violence, live surrounded by foreclosed homes, have no local places for their children to gain skills and connect, and see the number of homeless grow – just the other day I saw a woman with a sign for change standing in front of Stop and Shop near Manton. People know opportunities are not what they should be or once were for young or old workers.
Positively, the city is working on an ordinance to require banks to maintain and upkeep foreclosed property. This is part of the solution to neglected neighborhoods - and both the Mayor and City Council support it. We need to work together to find more common ground for common sense changes.
General St., where the triple homicide took place, was an economically mixed neighborhood, near a Shaw's with a fast declining number of stores in its mini-mall. My sister was good friends with two of the deceased.
We need to do so much better.
One of my relatives recently wrote on Facebook, “Today, I have shed a few tears for those murdered in Providence. My prayers and thought go to their families. Having watched one of them grow up and remembering... It's time for us, and even dare I say past time, to cry ... ENOUGH.. No excuses.. No politics ..Do something..ENOUGH.”
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