Violence is a complex issue that will demand a total long-term commitment from our entire community to successfully address.
I was pleased to see that the High Point Enterprise highlighted the good work Patrick Harman and the Hayden-Harman Foundation are doing to identify and address needs in our community. Patrick has, for years, been quietly and very effectively investing in parts of High Point that traditionally have not received the attention they deserve. It was also not at all surprising that the UNCG study identified violence as a top concern for our city because, quite frankly, it is the most significant threat to all the positive things that are currently happening in High Point.
This violence, specifically the shootings and murders, which we have seen escalate over the past few years, is a complex issue that will demand a total long-term commitment from our entire community to successfully address. Those who are diligently working in the trenches in this fight, the High Point Police Department and High Point Citizens Against Violence, will tell you the population perpetrating these crimes consists of less than 40 individuals who are completely committed to the gang lifestyle, violence and the drug trade. The shootings are driven by inner-city territorial issues and are often acts of retaliation. These criminals have shown a complete disregard for the rule of law and the sanctity of life. Our community is, in effect, being held hostage by less than 1% of our population which is absolutely unacceptable.
The cycle of violence begins early in our children’s lives as these criminals are now competing for their hearts and minds in elementary school!
I believe in our High Point Police Department and appreciate their efforts to address the violence which they have done and continue to do in a timely and professional manner. However, Chief Schultz and his officers cannot successfully combat these shootings without the help of those residents who have knowledge of these crimes and yet will not cooperate in the investigations.
To encourage and protect these folks we need to see more timely prosecutions, more stringent sentencing from our local court system and no more violent offenders being released on bond back into our streets. Perhaps it is also time for us to revisit the interagency taskforce strategy our Police Department used in the late nineties when they aggressively targeted, prosecuted and put away (for a very long time) a lot of hardcore criminals with federal indictments.
To institute a long-term solution which insures this violence will not simply regenerate itself with each new generation, we must make a serious, long-term commitment to educate, nurture and protect our young people.
The cycle of violence begins early in our children’s lives as these criminals are now competing for their hearts and minds in elementary school! Education, and the life opportunities it creates, is the only answer. Students must be reading by the third grade and academically prepared for post-secondary educational opportunities upon graduation. We need a continuum of support that begins at birth, provides quality preschools for all and introduces comprehensive resources for students K-12. These services must include mental/physical healthcare, tutoring, mentoring, support for at-risk families and, most of all an oversight system that can monitor and address the needs of every child.
The Say Yes Guilford “support services” component represents a key part of the solution as they will provide those resources which nurture and prepare our students to not only get accepted, but to also thrive at and graduate from college, or community college. Perhaps the greatest advantage Say Yes Guilford provides is its ability to intervene and positively influence our young people early in their educational journey. It is critically important our young people see there are indeed opportunities, proven paths that can be taken, be they vocational, or academic, which will provide more opportunities than can ever be found in the gang lifestyle.
If we truly want to defeat violence in High Point, the only permanent answer is to give our young people hope, guidance and the promise of self-sufficiency. I believe every single child in our community deserves this chance and that each of us, regardless of race, income or creed, much adopt the mentality that when one child fails, we all fail.