Editorial: Line up to save Detroit’s kids
Detroit’s children face a lead problem of a different kind. Too much of it is entering their bodies in the form of bullets fired by adults who seem to be intentionally targeting and often killing them.
That’s the opinion of Police Chief James Craig, who told an interviewer he doesn’t believe the young victims of a recent rash of shootings are collateral damage, but rather are the intended targets of the attacks. The chief says the shooters knew their guns were pointed at children and pulled the trigger anyway.
Three children have been shot in this fashion in the past month; two have died. On Easter morning, 3-year-old A’Naiya Montgomery was killed when a hail of bullets were fired into her Detroit home. Just over a week ago, Miracle Murray, age 6 months, was killed when a gunman swept her front yard with bullets; a 24-year-old man was wounded. This weekend, a father teaching his 4-year-old son to ride a bike was shot and killed and the boy was wounded in a drive-by shooting.
It is a particularly evil strain of violence that targets children. And it didn’t just start. Last Christmas, two young girls were shot, one fatally, when a fight between two women ended with a home being pumped full of bullets. The list of children whose lives have been taken by violence in Detroit is long, and stretches way back.
But it’s time to end it with a sustained and massive community mobilization. That’s what Craig proposed this week, and Detroiters and those who care about Detroit must rally behind him.
The chief is asking for ministers and community groups to join him in a grass-roots effort that combines stepped-up policing and initiatives by citizens to help identify those who are committing the violence so that they can be brought to justice.
Craig wants community groups to do more intervention work with young people, ministers to keep the issue in front of their congregations and cops to put an intense emphasis on combatting illegal guns and those who use them.
What the chief didn’t talk much about was gangs, but they are a very real piece of this crisis. All three of the most recent child shootings occurred in an area of the city’s west side, and all bear the marks of gang retributions. Detroit officials must step up efforts with federal law enforcement authorities to wipe out the city’s extensive network of drug gangs.
Craig says the community approach he envisions has worked in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, where he did previous stints. But it only works, he says, if the community fully buys in.
Already, the typical Detroit turf wars are surfacing. The Rev. Charles Williams III proclaimed Craig should join the community, not the other way around. That sort of nonsense from Williams has never been helpful, and it surely won’t work to keep Detroit’s children alive.
Detroiters must stop fighting each other and unite to fight this extreme threat to their kids. Craig should not have to beg people to protect this city’s kids.
Everyone must turn their anger, frustration and grief into a positive response to this unacceptable epidemic.