Another week, another forum - to talk about the young men being shot.
In fact, the only thing keeping pace with the number of city homicides - 33 so far this year - is the number of meetings, news conferences and prayer vigils called to stop the madness.
In some respects, the "Project Safe Neighborhoods" forum organized by the Upward Bound teen program last month was like so many of the others, but with one notable difference: It contained the seeds for a community scorecard. (Disclosure: A journalism group I'm involved in helped arrange the forum.)
The elected officials, law enforcers and activists on the panel were asked to describe one concrete - and measurable - step that could be taken to stem the violence.
Which entity does the measuring is less important than the fact that implicit in the answers are yardsticks for seeing how serious we are. For instance:
. Robert Watson described the cost of leaving young people with few positive alternatives because community centers - like one on his Monroe Street - are closed.
"Instead of having the corners open, let's open up some of these buildings," said Watson, whose son died from complications of a shotgun blast to the face when he talked to the thug's girlfriend, whom he knew as a neighbor.
Watson's prescription should be easy to quantify: How many community centers and school buildings are shuttered after school right now, and how many can be opened over the next year for recreation and tutoring?
. Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes decried the Buffalo schools' habit of tossing kids out for minor infractions instead of giving in-school suspensions that allow continued education. Comparing the number of suspensions next June with last year's total will tell us whether schools are serious about taking new approaches.
. Associate School Superintendent Will Keresztes recommended restoring vocational education programs to entice disenchanted kids who would return if schools offered more practical skills they could use to make a living. To measure that, compare the district's vocational offerings and enrollment a year from now with figures today. If not much changes, not much will change on the streets.
. City Judge Debra Givens lamented the number of 16- and 17-year-olds who appear before her with no family support, noting that kids usually start out with minor offenses before graduating to more serious crime. Courts could track how many young offenders show up alone, a measure of whether efforts to get parents more involved are working
. In the same vein, Central District Police Chief Brian Patterson points to adult illiteracy and the resulting hopelessness that such parents often pass along to their kids. He would have more churches open up their doors for literacy programs. Literacy rates and the number of GEDs earned can easily be tallied.
Bottom line: It's axiomatic that what gets measured gets done. Right now, the only thing we measure is how many meetings we have - and the growing body count.
[BN] the know
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Watson: More bodies, more meetings - to what end?
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