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It would have been nice
June 23, 2012 - Joe Gorman
As a writer, I am loathe to rehash, regurgitate, dregde up, however you want to call it, old material for new columns. However, because of the last two weeks on the Crime Beat, I could not help but think of a promise and a story and blog I did last year, when Youngstown had just five homicides at the time. Here's the lead from that June 14 blog:
``If this was sports, Mayor Jay Williams' guarantee Tuesday that the city would see a record decline in its murder rate this year at a press conference announcing the return of the VGRIP program would be on a bulletin board in a lockerroom somewhere. Indeed, I can almost picture some of the city's toughest thugs nailing it to the wall of their bedrooms or taping it to the dashboard of their cars. The mayor was either bold and making a public proclamation of his belief Tuesday in front of St. Dominics Church on the South Side or he is extremely foolhardy and has his head in the sand because he has no idea what is going in the city.'
Nice, huh? Not a bad lead, actually. Williams, shortly before he was plucked from his office on Boardman Street to work for the Obama Administration, had said at a press confernce that he expected the city to see a record decline in the amount of homicides in 2011. I remember thinking at the time, because I am a sports freak who roots for very bad teams, to not ``jinx it.' Things were going well in the crime department. It would be best not to talk about it.
However, even I drank the Kool Aid and said I thought it was possible, the mayor's guarantee. In 2010, Youngstown had 21 homicides. Here is what I wrote, once again, in the same blog:
``It would take a bloodletting of almost Biblical proportions -- 15 murders in six months -- to reach last year's rate, so odds are he's on the safe side of making such a guarantee. But who knows? Anything is possible in Youngstown. But I, for one, hope this is a guarantee that comes true.'
Unfortunately, that guarantee, did not come true, I ended up being the one who was right, although my math was wrong then. There was a bloodletting, as 18 murders were committed in the last six months of the year. Coupled with 16 so far this year, and there have been 34 homicides in the city for just over a full year, dating back to June 14, 2011, when I wrote the original blog. Actually, with the death of Dion Weatherspoon June 13, there were 33 dating back to the date of the blog.
I struggled with this for awhile. I don't want to seem like I'm saying ``told you so' to the former mayor or piling on. At least he was bold enough to make that statement. At least he was thinking positive.
Indeed, there was some sort of disconnect, and Williams did not see it, but in retrospect, who did? No one can predict these spasms of violence, and even if they could, short of a cop on every block, police are powerless to stop it. And that probably wouldn't even stop it.
I was also struck Friday as I covered the homicide of Curtis Moses across from the Partners Jazz & Blues Lounge at Oak Hill and Falls Avenue of the duality of Youngstown. As some dipped in their hands in what was left of Moses' blood on the sidewalk, two blocks away, a woman and her son were varnishing a large cross on their property. They purchased the site of the former Ringside Bar, after it was torn down, and cut the grass and put up the cross and a shed and keep it looking nice. The woman did not want to have her picture taken, poo pooing the entire effort, even when I told her I wanted to show people good things in Youngstown. It's not just blood on the pavement and arguments being settled in broad daylight Wild West style in front of plenty of witnesses who refuse to talk. But she didn't do her hair that day -- and that was that.
My contacts at the police department say the vast majority of homicides are products of the city's drug culture, where people always have guns and easy access to guns and settle disputes with them, or they need to carry guns because they need to look tough in the neighborhood or else they will be eaten alive. And with a gun around, why get in a fight? Plus, you can not be perceived as weak. Sometimes it is better to shoot first and ask questions later, to get that all important respect.
So a year after The Guarantee, I, as I'm sure most people, are flummoxed. The city is not safer, and if this violence problem can not be solved, all the awards in the world for being business friendly will mean nothing, because no one will want to live in the city, which is the key to it coming back. There is really no way to stop it.
Still, this is one guarantee I wish would've come true. It would have been very nice.
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