When violence plagues a community, the average citizen looks to government as the panacea that would eliminate it from amongst its midst, but nothing can be further from the truth. If a community is to be truly safe, it must police itself; citizens have to get involved and must be the eyes and ears of law enforcement. Passive community involvement breeds apathy, whereas active community involvement leads to safer neighborhoods. We, the residents of Plainfield, must be more civic-minded and must demonstrate a willingness to be more involved, to the point where our vigilance keeps the criminals on their toes, constantly moving until they discover the path that leads away from our neighborhoods or away from a life of crime. We must not allow the new criminal enterprise to view our community as a safe haven for their sordid behavior, and we must become friendly with the cops and allow them to use our homes as staging areas for some of their intelligence gathering. A community that polices itself will, ultimately, be a safer community.
Another part of the solution to the epidemic of crime that is plaguing Plainfield is an intergovernmental partnership; one that brings together the resources of the city, the county, the state of New Jersey, and the federal government. The high level of competence of the local Plainfield Police Department is no match for a criminal enterprise that has amassed an arsenal of weapons and a level of sophistication that are the envy of a four-star general on the frontlines of a battlefield. What Plainfield needs in order to effectively counter this level of violence is a surge in troops from other law enforcement agencies that will complement the local PD so as to overwhelm and overpower, with force and good crime fighting strategies, an army of social deviants that is wreaking havoc locally and sullying the city's reputation across the Tri-state area. Our law enforcement agencies need to identify and use some of the proven methods to break the code of silence that exists amongst gangs; extraordinary challenges require extraordinary solutions. The time for an elaborate intergovernmental law enforcement approach without regard for borders has arrived, and we must embrace it as a part of the solution to our crime epidemic.
However, any solution to our current crime epidemic must involve our very first line of defense; it’s the parents of our young people. Too often the vicious cycle of poverty, the tender age of parents who are slightly older than their kids, and the many broken homes with no fathers are major ingredients in an intoxicating mix that leads to wayward and out of control youths who use the gang life style as a symbol of power and, for far too many, as a symbol of love. We need parents to be more involved in the lives of their children and, yes, we need fathers to be the men they need to be. Fathers must be role models to their children and must also be those whom their children turn to for love and advice. A child should never feel that s/he can get more love from in the streets than in the home. I grew up without a father in my life, but I had a support system and an extended family that helped to guide me through my adolescence right into my young adult years. Our young people need a support system that will help to break the stranglehold of poverty that keeps them mired in a life of crime; they need extended families that are empowered to discipline, and loving and caring parents who can be parents and not be in need of parenting.
Having said all of the above, the schools have a significant role to play in the fight to save our young people. Most of the young people in our city are in our schools each and every day for most months of the year. Our schools must teach more than just the three “R's”; they must also contribute, in a very structured way, to the development of character and social consciousness that leads to radical social transformation. But this is not a job for only the teachers and administrators; it is the responsibility of all of us. We must go into the schools and be mentors, career counselors, entrepreneurial advisors, and coaches. And most important of all, our schools must build a solid academic foundation and provide the students with the tools they need to construct a life of which all Plainfielders can be proud.
I firmly believe that we can tackle our crime epidemic with a high degree of success if we follow the CGPS model that I outlined above. That is, the community, government, parents and schools must work cooperatively, collectively, and collaboratively to fight the crime epidemic and to apply a tourniquet to a gaping wound in order to stop the bleeding.