Photo by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr Creative Commons

Bottom Line: The Causes of Social Ills in our Communities

By Javier Aguirre

Recent headlines in the New York Times reiterate what many legal policy analysts have purported to be the truth, and that is that crime in America is on the rise. The nation continues to focus on federal language from the White House and the Department of Justice as the reasons for this increase. There are alternative reasons other than those posed by a justice system that is at a loss as to how to combat this most egregious social issue.

“President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have said repeatedly that the nation is in the grip of a crime wave that requires more arrests and harsher penalties, including for nonviolent crimes like drug possession.” Trump, in his Inaugural Address in January, spoke of “American carnage” to describe the nation’s rate of killings, and Sessions has directed prosecutors to more aggressively charge those arrested, while blaming illegal immigration for much of the rise in violence. Criminologists, police officials and others who study crime say that is untrue.

The director of a public safety project, the Pew Charitable Trust, claims that no one knows what is going on. Any claims to the contrary should be held under suspicion because “it’s too early to tell.” Alleged causes for this increase include such claims as a profusion of handguns, poverty and social isolation, warring gangs and appeasement measures for police infractions by making few arrests. Of these, perhaps police legitimacy is the one foremost in the minds of communities and civil rights groups.

“Proponents of the theory maintain that in cities where police departments treat citizens with disrespect and engage in brutality, residents will eventually stop cooperating with the police, which will diminish officers’ ability to solve crimes. The result, according to the argument, is that the most violence-prone people in a particular area will be free to continue committing crimes with little fear of arrest.”

The question being posed is “What is different now from 15 years ago in terms of why crime has increased,” as asked by John K. Roman, a criminologist. His point of view sustains that the only thing that has changed is “the distrust between heavily policed communities and local police. It’s not a coincidence that cities that have crime increases have also had problems between communities and the police.” And then again, current data purportedly suggest that violence might be tailing off in 2017.

Although this discussion is being held over martinis and appetizers, let us look at cause and effect from the grassroots level. Beginning with the claim that “no one knows what is going on,” this is possibly the best evaluation of the cause of increasing crime statistics. As agencies and police organizations are focusing on the symptoms, the cause remains unaddressed.

It is not that there are too many handguns on the street— guns don’t kill; only people kill. It is not the warring gangs—we live in a society that perpetuates the gang mentality among young criminals. Poverty and social isolation could certainly be viewed as causes of the problem, but the cause of these conditions is being addressed by placing a band-aid over a bleeding artery.

Then again, if police officers are walking on eggshells and broken glass, thereby failing to act and fearing retaliation, we should remember that crime created this condition, and the United States has lost the war on crime. Finally, the statement that it is no surprise that cities with crime increases demonstrate problems between police and the community is ludicrous at best. It is a no brainer.

The United States and countries in general have forgotten the role of schools as institutions of learning, and in the current day and age, of upbringing. While attempting to euphemize this institution by declaring that graduation rates are climbing and that SAT scores are also on the rise, we fail to address how this success complements the fact that juvenile felonies have increased faster than the graduation rate.

This increase in the number of people exiting high school correlates nicely with high unemployment among current graduates. If we were to combine this unemployed population with the statistical unemployment rate as forwarded by the Department of Labor, the rate would rise at least 5 to 8 percentage points.

We hide under the rug the fact that school campuses harbor violent offenders, drug abusers and dealers, promiscuity, physical and emotional/verbal violence, and bullying. This is speaking only of the students. There is also leadership incompetency, abuse by educators and education administrators, loopholes to increase graduation rates and ancillary sideline services such as dropout retention and dropout prevention, and remedial education. Society might, like a heroin addict, engage in denial of these facts, but the facts exist.

Schools provide a setting for the creation of criminal activity, similar to an institution like a prison, only without the punishment or consequences for violations. Lack of classroom management, the nonexistence of a zero-tolerance policy that is adhered to, and the existence—as is readily acknowledged but not published by teacher unions—of incompetent or self-serving educators who justify their paycheck through their internal grading system, are at fault.

Schools, by graduating youth who are not ready for society, pollute the communities with “poverty and social isolation” and crime. While passively accepting the consequences of school failures, social service agencies, police departments, judicial systems and the communities themselves allow school districts to maintain a role of sovereignty in the community.

There is evidence that the Fresno City Council has been approached to discuss this theory and that all but one member responded. In the end, his office’s response was that the City Council has no jurisdiction over the school district but is working to rehabilitate the homeless in the city of Fresno. A district resident responded that the Board and other administrators are “too busy” to look at any alternatives.

Correspondence to the Fresno Teachers Association and the Fresno Unified School District Board, with a viable theory and statistics, has been ignored. Other activist and advocacy programs simply cannot grasp the fact that schools are the source, not the healer, of social dysfunction.

Instead of calling for long-term solutions to the creation of ill-prepared, functionally illiterate, socially disadvantaged graduates from high schools, nonprofits seek money to provide more “crutch” programs such as remedial tutoring, youth counseling and poverty assistance. This creates an atmosphere where the school district is a sovereign nation, in and unto itself, able to act with impunity. Community and government agencies claim no responsibility for the district’s faulty processes and failure.

This brings us back to the initial query. What is different today than 15 years ago that is resulting in higher crime, higher poverty, higher civil rights violations, increased policing, armed guards on campuses and civil disruption? It is the population changes that have been overlooked.

Today’s administrators and policy makers are graduates of yesterday’s high schools and are products of past social dysfunction. Most adults are culturally incompetent when it comes to today’s youth. Via the Internet, the youth know and manipulate social values better than adults understand the issues.

*****

Javier Aguirre is an advocate and activist working in all fields of corporate and government abuse, including Education, Human Services, Community Development, and Civil Rights. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis on Public Policy, and a Masters in Education. He is a published author and is responsible for changing the lives of many people by advocating for the closure of agencies and programs engaged in mismanagement and non-compliance.

  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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