Some teenagers may soon be experiencing an old-fashioned spanking.
Or at least they would, if the group that gathered Tuesday had anything to say about it.
“We have to let the parents know, you don’t have to be scared of your kid,” said Portia Alston, who urged parents to spank their children and offered to do it for them if they needed help. She was one of about 50 residents, clergy and government officials who gathered at Christ Church to talk about the recently escalating city gun violence and propose ways to stop it.
Spanking — or at least laying down rules and enforcing them — was the favored solution.
“If we took our own children off the streets, we wouldn’t need so many police,” the Rev. Emanuel Adams said.
He castigated parents for negotiating with their children instead of setting firm rules.
“We’ve got to control our children,” he said. “You want to argue with them, and yet you feed them and clothe them. I see parents arguing with a 3-year-old child over whether to sit down.”
He, too, offered to help if parents were too afraid to discipline their children themselves.
“You’ve got to discipline that child,” he said. “If you don’t do this, I don’t care what the mayor does, I don’t care what the police do, I don’t care how many cameras you have, you will not resolve this problem.”
Resident Cindy Prater said parents might be persuaded to take a more active role if they had to pay a fine and pick up their child at the police headquarters every time police found the child wandering the streets after 11 p.m. The idea of a curfew has been discussed eagerly by many residents in recent years, but has been largely dismissed by the city government because so many police would be needed to transport the children and supervise them while they wait for their parents to arrive.
“I think that would help,” Prater said. “They’ll get tired of paying that fine, picking up their kid, and they’ll do something. Spare the rod, spoil the child!”
Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett took a different tack. Instead of parenting advice, he asked each resident to seek out five others and persuade them to cooperate with police instead of staying silent in fear of reprisals from the criminals.
“Remind them every time you see them: ‘A group of vigilantes is holding the city hostage. It’s not right. It is patently unfair to the community,’ ” Bennett said. “Let’s try to convince people you don’t need to live in fear and there’s no future living in fear.”
But he also made it clear that the recent violence is an outgrowth of the street-wise teenager’s complaint about disrespect.
Most of the gunfire has nothing to do with drugs or gangs, he said.
“What we have are people displaying handguns and taking shots at each other for the most ridiculous reasons: because you ‘disrespected’ his girlfriend — the definition of ‘disrespect’ being up to him, of course. You may have made a comment. Or it could be you made a comment about someone’s vehicle. That’s a real good reason to kill somebody,” Bennett added sarcastically.
He said the shooters range in age from 14 to 50, and that he believes fewer than 25 people are doing almost all of the shooting. There have been 61 confirmed incidents of shots fired so far this year.
Even though Bennett said many of the shooters are not children, some residents said the answer was to discipline youngsters so that they don’t wander the streets, buy illegal guns and start shooting each other over minor disagreements.
But others showed some weariness at yet another meeting to talk about crime.
“This may be the 30th or 40th meeting I’ve attended, usually as a reaction to a shooting or a flare-up,” said Andreas Kriefall, who criticized the meetings as being all talk.
“The ingredient that’s missing is organizing,” he said. “You need a sustained commitment.”
Some speakers agreed with him, but still the talk went on. For two hours, the group argued, complained and offered a series of ideas to combat the violence, but no concrete steps for achieving any of those ideas.
Weed and Seed site Coordinator Marion Porterfield urged everyone to meet again at 6:30 p.m. on May 15 at Calvary Tabernacle Assembly, 1840 Albany St. At that meeting, she promised, they will create plans for action.
Tuesday’s meeting was organized in response to the recently escalating gun incidents in the city. Police have been responding to calls for shots fired nearly every day for the past eight weeks, although Bennett said that the gunfire appears to have died down since police doubled their patrols with the help of state troopers April 23.
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