On the slight, slight chance that you don't know about these killings, these victims were apparently hanging out, listening to music in a school parking lot when they were accosted by four to five young men, lined up against the rear wall of the school, forced to kneel, and shot execution style. One young woman survived and is recovering in a Newark hospital. Police say robbery was the apparent motive.
And when the requisite blame was assigned by some justifiably outraged, outspoken Newark residents, who do you think was the first person blamed? Newark Mayor Cory Booker, of course. Apparently the murders were indirectly caused by Booker not doing more to stop violent crime.
Wait. Don't tell me you actually guessed the killers were blamed? And, puhleaaaaase tell me you didn't dare question how the killers might have been raised?
I understand that among their many duties as custodians of our tax dollars, elected officials have a responsibility to field the best police forces money can buy.
But how many times do I have to say police work is only half preventative? Seriously, cops can prevent things like burglaries when alarms tip them off. They can prevent a few things like drug deals when surveillance or instinct tips them off to shady behavior. They can prevent a few crimes by pure luck - stumbling on a crime about to happen or in progress. The other half of police work? Reactionary. It has to be, unless cops become psychics or Minority Report actually comes true some day.
So what is the best solution to violent, outrageous criminal behavior, the stuff that stokes the strongest reaction from police? It's simple. You change the way violent people think. You change the way they think, and you will change the way they act. If they think that robbery is an acceptable way to make money they will act on it. If they think that murder is an acceptable way to clean up the robbery they will act on it.
Before you react with "easier said than done," consider that most psych and sociological experts agree that the moral standards we live by most of our lives are established during our childhoods.
So if you think about it, parents really can shape the way their kids think. Sure there are exceptions. The occasional birth of a Jeffrey Dahmer is proof of that. But a strong parent that keeps a kid in check and doesn't take crap from a kid, and makes a kid study and do homework and go to bed at a reasonable hour, and tells a kid no sometimes, and regulates the music and movies the kid listens to and watches, and regulates the kid's friends, and reacts swiftly and consistently when the kid hits another person for any reason but self defense, can usually shape that kid into a reasonably decent person, a person with enough common sense to not ever consider cold-blooded murder as an option.
You know I spent most of last week in Las Vegas. One evening while waiting in the lobby of my hotel to rendezvous for dinner with a few friends from other newspapers, I observed a family - mom, dad, two kids (boy and girl), and someone I'm guessing was grandma. The boy was cracked up, yelling, stomping, hitting his sister, screaming "no!" to his mother, brushing grandma's hand away as she tried to soothe him. The worse he acted, the more his folks and grandma shrank away. He won. I'm not saying that a temper tantrum by a kid who appeared to be somewhere between 9 and 11 translates to him becoming a murderer. But 10 years from now if that kid ever finds himself in a tough, desperate situation, or a hopeless dead-end lifestyle, I guarantee you he'll have fewer reservations about doing something stupid, and maybe violent to "fix" his situation than the kid whose parents would have checked him hard and shut him down the minute that tantrum started. Substitute the tantrum with refusals to do homework, go to bed on time, stop hitting, etc., and parents who let those things slide too, and you have the same result.
When reached by the media, James Harvey, the father of Newark victim Dashon Harvey, said "To have our kids nowadays act the way they act, I don't blame Mayor Booker. It's not on Mayor Booker. It's on you guys. It's on the parents of the city of Newark, or whoever you are in the world. It's on the parents. When you raise your kids up you teach 'em right from wrong...Innocent people are dying needlessly, unnecessarily and for what? I blame you guys, the parents of America. If you raised your kids better this world would be a better place to live."