Only we can cool off the summer

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The first day of summer usually brings up thoughts of cold drinks, beach attire and vacations.

The first day of summer usually brings up thoughts of cold drinks, beach attire and vacations.

That is no longer true in Chicago, where the summer solstice is approached with fear and dread, because recent history has seen temperatures rise with a corresponding rise in violent crime.

This past weekend brought more than three-dozen shootings around Chicago. No one even dares ignore the link between warm weather and street violence anymore.

But it isn’t the summer. It isn’t even the heat.

It is US.

Of course, we can see a causal relationship between the proliferation of guns and the fatal shootings. Guns certainly are the weapons of choice in these violent confrontations, and a realistic and legal plan to keep guns out of the hands of so many violent people (not just felons) would certainly lessen the carnage.

While some point to the terrible state of the economy, and especially in minority neighborhoods as adding fuel to the fire. Joblessness is not an excuse for committing crimes, and it is certainly no reason for the kind of senseless violence that has dominated the news. People are being shot for perceived insults, or standing too close, or standing in the wrong place, or standing when someone thought they should be sitting. It is not t he economy, stupid!

Several agencies have come up with summer programs to help keep young people engaged during the summer. While we applaud the attention being paid to our youth, we also have to be careful to not fall into the habit of seeing our children as just a summer program away from being a criminal.

The police union says that the low numbers of cops on the street is a reason for the rise in crime (even though violent crime statistics are lower now than 10 and 20 years ago – and even lower than last year). To his credit, new police superintendent Garry McCarthy is not using the officer levels as a crutch. He has vowed to stem the tide with better policing, better utilization of the police and re-establishing relations with the general public.

While any one of those factors could lead to lower numbers of assaults and shootings and deaths, we are convinced that crime, particularly violent crime, can only be solved when WE stop doing it. That means we don’t pull out a gun during a friendly game of spades.

We don’t take a gun to the movies, or to a funeral or to a wedding. We don’t think of violence as the first alternative – before talking or just walking away from trouble.

We also don’t continue to shield the malefactors from punishment. We can’t afford to embrace some hoary idea that talking to the police about violent offenders in our neighborhood is “snitching.” If snitching will save your son, or your daughter or your grandmother from a violent death, you should have the police department on speed dial.

But We also need to communicate to each other – in the strongest language possible – that every life is precious, every life is valuable. We have to set the tone that this violence is unacceptable and we won’t stand for it, no matter what season, no matter what temperature.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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