Dawley: Parents should be held accountable

by Symptom Advice on July 16, 2011

Gunshots, popping like copper-jacketed kernels in the air, dark puddles of congealing blood on city streets, bullet-scarred buildings, cars and bodies. Bagdad, Kabul, Mogadishu, you may be thinking. think again; this place is less exotic, but increasingly as dangerous — inner city, U.S.a.

What affliction is causing the inner-city streets of America to become festering sores, oozing with violence? I could qualify as an expert witness to such violence, having sacrificed a good deal of my own blood on the altar of a city sidewalk as a police officer. Some would blame poverty, easier access to guns, lack of opportunity, all of the above and more.

Those are certainly legitimate problems. but hasn’t poverty always existed? And if you believe Jesus, who said: “You will always have the poor among you,” it always will. I grew up in the housing projects of 30-odd years ago, yet I can’t recall a single incident of gun violence.

True enough, guns are more accessible nowadays. however, it takes a certain mindset to pull the trigger while pointing one at another human being. so how did these young people, responsible for so much of the violence, get to that mindset?

Lack of opportunity is definitely a problem, and the high dropout and teenage pregnancy rates in our inner cities surely intensifies that lack. nevertheless, people don’t shoot and kill each other because they can’t find a job.

Each time the latest round of inner city violence committed by young people is reported, the question I keep coming back to is — where are the parents?

America’s inner cities are suffering from a deficiency that is causing a social scurvy, and the nutrient so sorely lacking is positive parental guidance. the deficiency has been generations in the making, and it is steadily getting worse.

What’s causing this deficiency? Is it a lack of parenting skills? or is it just plain, old-fashioned laziness, indifference and irresponsibility, that leave the task of parenting to teachers, social workers, juvenile probation officers and, sadly, the streets? Very often, many of these same parents will blame everyone and everything but themselves when their kids do get into trouble.

As the father of three, I don’t recall ever having taken a class on parenting, but I instinctively knew that letting my kids run the streets wasn’t in their best interest, and I made a point of knowing where they were and what they were doing.

Is there a cure for this social scurvy? a treatment for this deficiency of parental guidance? a proverbial fruit that can be added to society’s diet to lessen the symptoms? If so, it doesn’t grow in the groves of government programs and assistance. the seeds need to be planted and nurtured in the homes.

Perhaps if parents are made accountable for their children, the children will be made accountable to their parents. When a kid is charged with a crime of violence, bring the parent or parents into court and ask why. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy if a parent is receiving government assistance of any kind. If one of their kids is convicted of a violent crime, they automatically lose the assistance.

The Erie Housing Authority has implemented a similar policy by evicting tenants if they or anyone living in their apartment is involved in criminal activity. this zero-tolerance policy has had great success curbing crime in the housing projects.

These actions may be a bitter pulp for some to swallow, but the time has come for drastic treatment, and if it has to be force-fed — so be it.

TERRY DAWLEY is a bail agent, a retired Erie police officer and a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

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