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Stand Up Against Hartford Violence

June 11, 2006

The violence in Hartford has reached unacceptable levels - 20 people shot since May 24, 13 homicides so far this year. People are discussing the violence all over the city. The basic question being asked by people regardless of their social, economic, religious or political background is, "What is wrong with Hartford?"

We must answer that question.

Raymond B. Flannery writes in the book "Violence in America" that "violence exists in many forms in our culture - some of which we condone, some of which we fear and some of which we ignore." Have Hartford residents condoned and ignored the violent criminals on the streets until their brazen acts caused fear?

In this time of crisis, I ask:

Where was Hartford's Police Department? I am not singling out those men and women who put their lives on the line daily to keep us safe. I support the police. Yet ordinary citizens depend on trained law enforcement officers as a first line of defense against criminals. Officers are stretched thin answering dispatch calls for help.

Where were the religious leaders before last week? Hartford's landscape is dotted with churches. These gorgeous temples erected to God hold hundreds and thousands of people each Sunday and throughout the week. Religious leaders must do more than ask for a cease- fire. They must come to the aid of people who live in fear of these daily shootings.

Do the religious leaders think that all they need to do is strut around in fine robes and preach on Sunday? Clergy must stop hiding behind their pulpits and develop some backbone to fight the rampant crime inundating Hartford.

Any community needs jobs and businesses to make it thrive, but eliminating poverty is not the complete answer. Flannery wrote in "Violence in America" that "broken homes, divorce, foster home placement, inadequate parenting, alcoholism, inadequate schooling and profound social isolation are contributing factors to violence committed by people."

We can add to this list the fact that many of those doing the shooting in Hartford are adolescents. Guns and youth - what a volatile mix.

Finally, where were the residents when the police needed them? In the besieged neighborhoods there live people of color. Black and brown people are actually supporting criminals by not giving police information when crimes are committed. Yet these same people of color holler, in Old Testament style, for justice to "roll down like a mighty river" when there is gunfire at night.

People of color want to keep police at a safe distance but look to them for salvation when the "brothers" are on a rampage with their weapons. I am a mental health worker and view this kind of behavior toward police as schizophrenic. You cannot have it both ways in these troubled neighborhoods. People must support the Hartford Police Department.

And Hartford politicians must stop posturing for photo opportunities when the bullets fly and bodies hit the streets. We need leadership committed to solving problems, not capitalizing on misery and death.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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