Gunshots echoed throughout my living room and into my spirit on Tuesday night while I was relaxing on the couch after a long day. I heard helicopters hovering within minutes. Peace of mind had, once again, had been replaced with fear. Night became day as police examined the deceased, searched for evidence and knocked on neighbors’ doors for clues. It was a difficult night for everyone.
But this wasn’t the first time I experienced violence in our neighborhood. Our restaurant was the victim of a gang shooting a few months ago; bullets entered the wall where I cook. Only minutes separated the time between the shooting and when I left to walk home. And the man who used to park his car in our lot was shot a couple weeks ago as well. It appears that Pasadena police have their hands full. But who’s to blame? The fact is that everyone is to blame, including myself.
Everyone is responsible for making Pasadena a healthier and safer environment. Parents, teachers, school and city administrators, guidance counselors, business owners and local police need to examine the roots of violence and allocate the time and money necessary to improve this community. Being proactive and not reactive is the key to reducing physical and psychological violence. So, let’s begin.
The article and Ted Talk below provide an excellent foundation for gang violence intervention and prevention. There’s an overwhelming amount of research that can help solve this problem. Change depends on the ability of our leaders to think outside the box and put research into practice. Benchmarking with similar communities that have been successful at reducing violence is the key to success. Following the same policies, practices and procedures over and over and expecting different results is the key to failure. Mistakes along the way are inevitable and should be expected, but that’s the only way we can improve.
In any situation, the best thing we can do is the right thing. The next best thing we can do is the wrong thing. But the worst thing we can do is nothing.
Note: In 2007, the death rate of foot soldiers in Chicago gangs was 7%/year (entry income of $600/mo), while the likelihood of mortality in Iraq was only .5%/year (entry income of $1300 with benefits).
Dr. John Hofmann