The drive-by shootings that took the lives of a 12-year old girl and a 9-month old boy in separate incidents in recent weeks makes the controversial “Avoid the Ghetto” app an imperative. Anyone contemplating a visit to Detroit shouldn’t be caught dead without one.
A recently patented Microsoft GPS software application for pedestrian Smartphone users, technically called the “route production” program, is not available for sale. And while the patent makes no reference to the word “ghetto,” its “Avoid the Ghetto” nickname has spawned high-tech criticism.
Dallas branch NAACP President Juanita Wallace, among others, voiced concerned that its use of crime stats will steer tourists away from urban areas across America. Wallace told CBS: “I’m going to be up in arms about it if it happens. It’s almost like gerrymandering. It’s stereotyping for sure and without a doubt, I can’t emphasize enough, it’s discriminatory.”
What’s not in dispute is that random and willful murders in cities like Detroit pose a serious and recurring threat to motorists, residents and visitors.
The evening news routinely airs stories about a young child being shot inside or outside his or her home; a teen or young adult male lying dead in the street; friends, mothers and other relatives pleading and crying out for relief from the senseless, seemingly endless, bloodshed.
Citizens gripped by fear are afraid to venture onto streets that overflow with marauding, rudderless youth, school dropouts, dope dealers and gang bangers. Too few opportunities and too many lures sap much of the potential of generations.
So pervasive and overwhelming are the minefield of temptations that the drift of young people into the dead-end world of crime is predictable. A lucrative drug market fuels hopelessness, misery and death. There’s no mystery why Detroit has one of the highest per capita homicide and teen murder rates in the nation.
Hoards of social misfits exhibit such incorrigible, immoral behavior that it begs answers to a list of perplexing questions: Is it too late for Detroiters to reverse the negative, self-perpetuating pattern of their lives? Is the erosion of institutions too damaged to repair the moral fabric of communities? Has so much ground been lost that frightened residents are fatefully assigned the terror?
One would think that every conceivable response to this predicament – be it social, education, political, community or a law enforcement crackdown – would receive a significant public appointment. But looking in on today’s Detroit, you’ll find little evidence that a constituency that placed a high value on safety ever existed.
The voice of those who once set standards and values acceptable to and conformed to by the larger group has gone silent. The law enforcement hierarchy hopelessly wrings their hands, talk tough, beg for community support, but are otherwise powerless to quell the ruthless and violent surge.
Instead of urgently and passionately setting the moral tone for neighborhoods in distress, the remaining law-abiders communicate their disaffection by loading what belongings they have left into moving vans and vacating neighborhoods where the carnage occurs.
Until the city gets its arms around the shootings and murders, survival is in doubt. But that assumes there are still enough well meaning Detroiters with some predilection to the “right thing.”
As TV and the press chronicle the dramatic slide into oblivion, the images of the city’s undoing becomes firmly embedded in the psyche of observant and judgmental people who live outside the city. They subsequently, and to a large extent, justifiably avoid venturing into it.
The moral legacy left to Detroit may ultimately be one that requires a Smartphone app to safely navigate through the quagmire. Such a device would not be fail-safe, but it will allow visitors to quickly identify and possibly avoid hot crime spots. To that end, the “Avoid the Ghetto” app could be a life saving high-tech instrument in a high-crime, deadly era.