Bankole: Business leaders must address youth violence

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

Detroit is becoming a killing field for children, something that now warrants the intervention of everyone who has a stake in this city’s growth — especially its business leaders.

Almost every day in Detroit innocent children are getting killed in senseless acts of violence.

The job of protecting the children and guaranteeing them a safe place in this city should not be left to police officers or ordinary citizens marching against violent crime.

Detroit’s business leaders too have a stake in helping to stop the massacre against children. Because if Detroit is not safe for children to live in, it won’t be safe for business either. And there is strong precedent of corporate leaders stepping in.

For example, several business leaders came together in 2013 and donated 10 new ambulances and 15 police cars to the Detroit Police Department in an unprecedented act of corporate social responsibility.

And at this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference where business leaders converge each year to set public policy expectations for elected officials, the issue of Detroit’s out of control crime epidemic that is stealing the future of the city’s youth was not on the agenda.

One attendee, Brenda Jones, the president of the Detroit City Council, worries about the violence.

“I am very concerned about the way children are dying in this city. And what has saddened me about this crime problem is to watch mothers losing their children,” Jones said. “The whole city needs to rise up and that is why I would have liked to see that at least public safety was touched on at the conference.”

She said some of the investigators investigating the crimes against children are even traumatized by the violence visited upon children.

The issue’s absence from the Mackinac stage renders the business community’s intervention in this public safety nightmare even more urgent.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who attended the conference for the first time in five years, agreed that business leaders should put crime on the front burner.

“There are child safety issues in Detroit. We need business leaders to use their influence to address crime including these child shootings,” Worthy said. “In order for us to keep progressing, we are going to have to talk about crime.”

Until Detroit’s stakeholders are ready and willing to help in stopping this wave of violent crime claiming the lives of children, the idea of a comeback won’t mean much.

It is one thing to sing the refrain of a city coming back. It is another thing when children cannot take part in that refrain because their lives are being destroyed on a daily basis through violent crime.

Safety is a quality of life that all children including the ones in the city ought to enjoy and our business leaders can make a difference.

Baruah, president and CEO of The Detroit Regional Chamber, said the business community is committed to this issue.

“Public safety, like education, is one of the key issues facing Detroit. Improving public safety in the neighborhoods is critical to reversing the city’s population decline and providing residents and businesses the public services they deserve,” Baruah said.

“The mayor has made this a top priority and with the leadership of Chief (James) Craig is making progress on this issue. At the Detroit Policy Conference in February, we hosted a conversation highlighting the role crime reduction plays in building safe neighborhoods, and it’s surely a dialogue that needs to continue.”

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910 AM Wednesdays and Fridays. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.B