Daily news reports and crime statistics painfully affirm Detroit as a dangerous place. Vicious street crimes by and against teens are on the rise. Drive-by shooting victims flood hospital emergency rooms. Brutal assaults occur in and out of schools.
Shock waves reverberated throughout the city after teenagers invaded a home and raped a 90-year old woman. City streets are especially toxic for young males between the ages of 15 and 24. Funeral homes bustle with the traffic of mourners of the murdered.
The violence and the deaths might be easier to accept if the source of the horrific events originated from outside the city. But Detroit is plagued by homegrown, homemade terrorists who are born and bred in the neighborhoods where they live. In other words, Detroiters are recklessly sowing the seeds of their own destruction.
None of these perpetrators come into the world with malicious intent and perverse values; they learn them in dysfunctional homes and a street culture that pollutes the psyche. Too many have no conscience and no concept of the meaning of respect, discipline, responsibility and morals.
Theirs is a culture of both swagger and insecurity. Deprived of adequate learning stimulants that are vital for developing minds, they quickly find that a mismatch exists between their skills and the requirements for the few available jobs. The young seethe in rage about their poverty and unemployment. Some overcome tremendous odds and make it out. Most are candidates for prison instead of Princeton.
Crime exists where it is tolerated. Fearing intimidation, retaliation or worse, residents shy away from becoming informants. Their terror is justified. Trapped and cowering in barricaded homes, they succumb to “no snitch” edicts which allow thugs to prey on the vulnerable with impunity.
Witnesses to crime, as well as victims, tend to not come forward when the offenses involve someone they know. The most reprehensible conduct is viewed as taboo to law enforcement intervention. When eyewitnesses choose to look the other way, cops find it difficult to counter with offers of protection. And with an insufficient number of cops deployed in high crime areas, Detroiters feel defenseless and abandoned.
At the end of the day, the crime surge is not the result of cracks in the criminal justice system, as much as to a breakdown of social norms that are disconnected from traditional community codes of conduct. This moral deficiency is beyond the direct control and reach of police and prosecutors.
Policymakers must come to terms with why Detroit is being torn apart by delinquency, crime and chaos. They must first understand how criminals are shaped. There is a common thread: Most wayward youth go to bed every night in a home where their father does not live. This almost automatically puts them on a conveyor belt to becoming a career criminal.
By ignoring the “absent father” syndrome, Detroiters take the path of least resistance and pay last respects to the multitude of victims in its wake. As such, the last caretakers of a dying city will be best remembered for burying their children and permanently entombing a more viable future for the city.