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2 Shooting Deaths in 2 Months: How Do We Move Forward?

In light of two murders by gunfire in less than three months, Patch columnist Christine Wolf asks why there isn't a stronger police presence in the area surrounding Evanston Township High School?

I had plans for today's column -- plans that didn't involve discussion of a young man's shooting death within blocks of my son's high school.

two months ago, when Dajae Coleman, a freshman at Evanston Township High School, was shot and killed blocks from the high school...and yet here we are again, mourning the death of

Tragically, and even before Coleman's death, Justin . The , will pay $100 per gun.

Yet no amount of money will bring these two young men back to Evanston.

Imagine living in or around the neighborhoods where these murders took place, month after horrifying month. I despise guns, yet I can see why someone would ignore a gun buyback. Give up my gun? Not while kids are getting shot on my street...

Following Murray's murder, a friend of mine wondered aloud why there isn't a greater police presence in the neighborhoods surrounding the high school. "It's gotten to the point," she said, "where we need a three-block security perimeter established around the school."

Adults aren't the only ones looking for drastic measures. The Facebook page created by ETHS student Ruby Macsai-Goren has experienced a significant backlash by frustrated, disappointed members in the aftermath of Murray's murder. One member of the Facebook group recently wrote, "You wanna stop the violence? Get out of evanston!!! That's the only way!" The tone of the 4,245-member group is tense, with members posting frank comments like, "How does anyone here actually expect to stop something that has ALWAYS been around since people have been on this planet? There has always been violence and there will always be violence. The world is a [ ]ed up place. But I can tell you one thing, gang bangers don't give a [ ] about bracelets and facebook posts, so can someone tell me how we can actually stop the violence?" I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say many student members of the group have grown weary of a perceived lack of action to stop these senseless killings.

One member of the group, Ben Morton, wrote: "This is what I'm doing to help this community. I've been working with Reggie Murphy II, Claudia Africano, Jack Lydon, and Kiley Leff on a community center for teens to come and hang out. ... This a center to get kids off the streets before they have the opportunity to get involved in gang violence. It would mean the world to me for you all to let me know if you are in support of this."

Another member of the group, Kayla Long, wrote: "A lot of people have been saying OUTLAW GUNS, OUTLAW GUNS! But the truth is that many of the guns on the street are ILLEGAL. What we should strive for is making a change in who we are as a community. That starts at home, in school, and most importantly with US. Going to a hangout like Ben Morton is suggesting and staying away from potentially violent situations instead of "running the streets" as my parents say."

No matter how many negative comments come out of the recent discussions, I'm inspired by the positivity and willingness of Evanston residents to find a way through this nightmare. For the majority of us, leaving Evanston will never be an option. It's our home. And as such, some of my biggest questions are:

--Why isn't there a greater police presence around the area surrounding the high school? Is it money?

--I'm not a lawyer, so I need someone to explain to me why the Mayor's hands are tied when it comes to banning guns in Evanston.

--What are law enforcement professionals doing about gangs in Evanston?

--Has there ever been discussion about metal detectors at the high school?

I've received several emails in the last week about in-process action plans for local youth centers and the like, so I know there are wheels in motion. I just wonder how many more Dajaes and Justins we'll lose before true change will happen.

Lonnie wilson December 05, 2012 at 07:46 AM
Mr Harris I wonder if I know you?
Dan C December 05, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Let me guess, you're not an economist?
Dan C December 05, 2012 at 08:36 PM
No, we are not all parents of all kids. Diffusing responsibility for individuals' actions won't decrease crime. Parents have a special responsibility for the children they chose to bring into the world. Holding criminals, and if they're teenagers, their families responsible is better than blaming "society" for everything that goes wrong.
Brittany Armstrong December 06, 2012 at 06:41 AM
There are multiple mentoring programs in Evanston that target middle school and I believe high school. The McGaw YMCA has a mentoring program called SOAR with mentors from Northwestern.
Rodney Harris December 07, 2012 at 12:21 AM
David-Thanks for being open to my point(s). Dan C-Being the parent of all kids is what helps a community thrive and remain healthy. If we see an injustice or something that is morally wrong we can step in and "act like parent" to that young person for that moment. I ask young men all the time to pull their pants up when I see them saggin. They respond well because I ask them with respect, ask questions about their lives and families and I shed light on how others may view them. That is what we mean by "parenting" because those are teachable moments but we have to take the risk of stepping outside of our comfort zones. Lonnie-If it had not been for you, Herman, Ms. Holmes and others at the Family Focus community center I am not sure where I would be. Folks tried to recruit me into the neighborhood gang but the Boys to Men choir, basketball games and our daily rap sessions (discussions about real life) helped to keep me in check. I am a nephew, cousin, and a brother of men who have been incarcerated at some point but I benefited greatly because my church, family and community offered me alternatives to the crimes I witnessed. Mentoring programs are great but they only work when there are people willing to recruit the youth that are at risk. The youth that we have been discussing in this post most likely are not going to self-refer themselves. We have to engage them and help to take them out of the streets before the streets take them out of the schools.

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