Gun Violence and Murders Spike in 2016, But Whose to Blame?

Reggie Fullwood

I recently read a quote that said,” Child loss is not an event, it an indescribable journey of survival.” It’s a journey that no parent ever wants to take.

Unfortunately, it’s a journey that the parents of 22-month-old Aiden Michael McClendon are taking right now, and my heart goes out to the family. The mother, grandmother and the baby boy were parked in front of a house on the Eastside when a drive by shooting occurred. Aiden was the only person injured and he later passed away. The violence – especially the gun violence must stop.

With Jacksonville murder tolls steadily increasing, the obvious question that should be on everyone’s mind is,what has triggered so much violence within a span of less than two months this year?

Generally, most Sociologists and those who work in law enforcement associate crime with socio-economic conditions. It is pretty easy to tie the recent rash of murders with Jacksonville’s struggling core city neighborhoods; but not all of the violence has been in the urban core. The unemployment rate for African Americans is much higher than whites, and there are certainly other factors like struggling public schools and overall poverty and despair.

One could also point to the obvious connection between drugs and violence. Regardless of what the cause of this outbreak is, the community must rally to stop this escalation of murders.

And community means just that – all of us have a role to play. It’s not former Mayor Alvin Brown’s fault or even the former or current Sheriff’s fault. I have heard people point out the fact that the police department is understaffed or that the Jacksonville Journey crime prevention initiative is also well underfunded.
Those factors may be true, but they are only pieces of a larger puzzle. Residents have to fight back and young people have to change their mentalities about drugs and violence.

Last year, in a meeting with the Commander for Zone 5, which has the highest rate of crime in the city, the chief showed me a YouTube video of many of the youth associated with these crimes rapping/bragging about their crimes and constantly showing guns throughout the recording. What’s even scarier is the disregard many of these criminals have for human life.

Many of our youth are lost in a false culture of violence that is being perpetuated by Hip Hop music. And no, I am not saying that rap music is the cause of the violence we are seeing. I am saying that the music is the vehicle used to express this negative behavior, and has almost become the instigator of violence in many ways.
Today, young people are starting fights or “beefs” over anything from a negative social media post, to someone “stepping on my clean white shoes” in the club.
But whose issue is it? It is certainly not just an African American issue – it’s a citywide problem.

Most sociologists and professionals that study crime will tell you that is not simply a race issue, but an economic one. Throughout history there has been a strong correlation between violent crime and poverty. Many of the recent murders involve black-on-black crime in core city neighborhoods; but the homicides have spilled over into predominately white communities as well.

Although I have said that this issue is not just an African American issue, the fact that many of the homicides spawn from black-on-black violence, hence the black community needs to take some ownership and come together to find solutions.

That’s where our black leaders come into to play. Now is the time to “rally the troops” and not only begin the discussion, but really take action and implement more community-based initiatives. The sheriff’s office certainly can’t do it alone.

Someone once said, “One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” And we are far past emergency status.
If we are really going to help those young black males that suffer from a lack of guidance, we have to provide them with option other than violence and drugs. I mentioned it before, but we now live in an age, where Hip Hop music glorifies the “Thug Life” image and drug dealing.

It is certainly not Hip Hop’s problem to deal with, but ours because we have to somehow let our youth know that as some of the old timers would say, “Fast money, ain’t always good money.”

It’s time to use old strategies, but let’s try them with new twists. Instead of marching in the streets for change, let’s also go door to door and engage the youth and adults in high crime neighborhoods.

Instead of doing sit-ins, we need to go to businesses and ask for jobs for disenfranchised youth so that a database of decent wage jobs is created. We also have to work with organizations like Career Source, trade organizations and our state colleges to train youth and adults that need employment. The only way to stop the violence is to provide opportunities for youth to see that there is clearly a better, more sustainable way to live.

Prevention is critical. Simply locking youth up does not create long-term solutions. “Treatment without prevention is simply unsustainable,” said Bill Gates.

Signing off from East Jacksonville, Reggie Fullwood

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