Our Opinion: Taking on youth violence in Pittsfield
Youth and gang-related violence is a community problem requiring a community solution, so the large turnout Monday night for a forum on the issue at Morningside Community School in Pittsfield was encouraging. Solutions will have to come in large part from the ground up.
Mayor Daniel Bianchi called the gathering in response to a shooting a week earlier at the intersection of Burbank and North streets that wounded a 17-year-old and resulted in the arrest of a 15-year-old. Similar incidents in past months have had the city justifiably concerned, and it was doubly encouraging that the forum Monday was not a gripe-fest as speakers offered positive approaches.
The police can respond to such incidents but there are only so many available at a particular time. The police and other law enforcement authorities also play a role in crime prevention, a role the community must play a part in through neighborhood watches and other efforts. The city has won grants to better link the police department to the communities and to establish programs for at-risk youths. The meeting was moderated by Adam Hinds, coordinator of the grant-funded program to help city youth steer clear of gangs.
The consensus that emerged from the speakers is that citizens must step up and take action rather than wait for solutions to arrive via edict. That means funding and establishing more youth activities, especially during the summer months. If young people are playing sports, learning or working part-time jobs they will be too busy to become mixed up in dangerous and/or illegal activities. Adults need to be actively involved in these programs, as well as neighborhood watches and the Westside or Morningside initiatives.
Each shooting in Pittsfield is a reminder of America's overwhelming gun problem. Weak federal gun laws undermine states like Massachusetts with sound gun laws, and as a result, what could otherwise have been minor disputes turn into major ones. This is a problem that defies simple solution at the local level, but there are many things that can and must be done at that level to reduce youth and gang-related violence in the community.