The Roots of the Crime Epidemic: A City’s Failure Of Its Youth

I hope that most Memphians were amazed and outraged when Mayor Herenton last week proposed laying off police and firemen, as well as closing libraries, parks, community centers and pools. A man who has made little sense over the years, Herenton seems to be making less sense every day. But there should have been equal outrage over the Memphis City Council’s decision to eliminate local funding of the public schools last year. Both attitudes show a lack of regard for our city’s future, our young people, particularly our African-American young people, who face a myriad of problems and roadblocks from birth. Memphians have been griping about high crime rates for several years, but never make the connection between growing crime and the taxpayers’ unwillingness to fund decent education and recreation. Therefore, a considerable amount of local tax moneys go to prosecuting and punishing criminals. The criminals’ lives have been ruined by bad choices, and their victims lives have been ruined as well. How much better it would be to try to intervene through first-class schools, better social services to deal with situations where parents are not involved with their children, and adequately-funded, plentiful recreation facilities and programs. I am not claiming that these would prevent all youth crime. Nothing would prevent all youth crime. But many young people are stumbling into a life of crime due to negative attitudes about their poor performance in school or because of boredom, peer pressure and nothing to do. We owe it to ourselves, our city and our youth to provide the best schools that money can buy and good, supervised recreation so that kids have something to do other than get into trouble. We may have to spend more tax money in the short run, but we will save much more in the reduction in crime, prosecution and imprisonment. 

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