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Don’t get too excited about Gov. Rick Snyder’s anticipated plan to address the high rates of crime and violence in the urban areas of Michigan. It’s not likely to amount to much.
Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm contributed to the problem by emptying out prisons and sending felons back to the mean streets of inner-cities. And there’s no evidence that government has any expertise fixing problems that contribute to crime on the front end.
I’m certain Gov. Snyder is well-intentioned and sees the urgent need. Lawlessness in crime-ravaged cities like Flint, Detroit, Inkster, Saginaw and Pontiac exacts a harsh and painful toll on defenseless populations. Murders in Detroit — about one per day — are among the highest in the nation.
Most of the rampage takes place in poor neighborhoods plagued by some of the most intransigent social problems. Opportunistic thugs vandalize, rob, rape and savagely kill. Loss of enterprise, property taxes, tourists, investors and a massive exodus of the law-abiding ends up burdening and crippling local economies long after the victims of crime are buried.
It would be prudent for the governor to take a hard look at the root causes of the bloodshed. Drugs, for example, are involved in up to 75 percent of murders. Some violent crime is due to a high percentage of adults who are involved in deviant and criminal behavior. In a home where boys and girls have never seen a working adult parent, it should not be surprising they would have difficulty assuming the personal and parental responsibilities of adult life.
Young people inordinately exposed to illegal activity tend to develop character defects, including a desire for instant gratification and the inability to feel the pain of others. Thus, they are prone to committing the worst crimes imaginable without a conscience or remorse.
Spikes in violence have a correlation with, and are primarily fueled by, the deadly combination of single mothers, absent fathers and the abandonment of the two-parent family model. Where there is a high concentration of broken, often dysfunctional, family units, there is also a community in a desperate struggle to cope with social chaos. First and foremost, reversing the dire trends associated with urban crime must first address the issue of family disintegration.
The greatest toll is in largely black communities. Sadly, however, no earnest “victims-led” revolution — a black-on-black uprising against black-on-black violence — has yet to emerge. People have yet to condemn en masse what can only be described as the reprehensible behavior of their own. Parents don’t encourage children to defer gratification. Not enough role models reminisce with young boys and girls about how the best thing they could be historically was to be educated.
Too few sermons emanate from the hundreds of city churches demanding a return to some semblance of social norms; a change in attitude, behavior and moral revival. Residents in besieged communities appear to be immune or tolerant of the disproportionate violence — or simply feel helpless.
Community and social activists are caught up in self-aggrandizing rhetoric of empowerment. They foolishly call for one more anti-crime forum, one more task force or a few more million dollars to better deal with the spiritual impoverishment, cultural and moral decline. However, no one still believes that large amounts of government spending for community-based programs can transform young boys and girls into socially responsible family members. That concept is as unrealistic today as it was when President Lyndon Johnson launched the Great Society programs of the 1960s.
So it’s not a failure of law enforcement that violence prevails, but the result of a complete social breakdown the likes of which government has no clue how to repair. And the real threat in crime-ridden communities is home-grown, born and bred in the neighborhoods on which they prey.
With this backdrop, unless initiatives originate from within the families and communities affected, crime reduction will continue to be a debate over statistics rather than substance.