The state of our cities and neighborhoods are at stake. Violence has become a culture of rage and plague our young people unlike any other time in history. Guns have become the weapon of choice for a easy kill and sometimes by the masses.
In New Jersey their are 18 targeted cities that received most of the attention where violence became commonplace in many of their communities: Elizabeth, Roselle, Linden, East Orange, Irvington, Newark, Jersey City, Franklin, New Brunswick, Atlantic City, Asbury Park, Lakewood, Plainfield, Paterson, Passaic, Trenton, Salem, and Camden are communities where advocates are working every day to address this epidemic in hope of stopping this plague from spreading to other communities.
The formation of the New Jersey Anti-Violence Coalition three years ago was established to push its five point initiatives. The mission is to:
- 1) Urge the governor and state legislature to declare violence a public health crisis.
- 2) Urge elected officials to hold public hearings on violence.
- 3) Urge the establishment of a state study commission on violence.
- 4) Urge the state to expand mental health services through out New Jersey.
- 5) Urge state officials to support the federal reinstatement of the assault weapon ban, buyers background checks, and gun trafficking laws.
The NJ Anti-Violence Coalition is now backing Sen. Ray Lesniak/Sen. Shirley Turner's legislative bill S2430, which at the request of our coalition adopted its five point initiatives in the proposed legislature.
The coalition formed by the National United Youth Council Inc. are made up of activists, clergy, social service workers, mental health professionals, elected officials, counselors, teachers, community leaders, and family members who lost loved ones to violence.
For the past 20 years the National UYC followed the trends of violence, its source, and its impact on the community. Most violent acts reflect some sort of unnatural influence, including drug/alcohol abuse, behavior disorder, social frustrations, family dysfunctions, stress, or a psychopathic illness.
Our society continues to side on the side of criminality in addressing violence, opposed to looking at the possibility of mental or social influence that may causing these actions.
As for "street/gang" violence, the only attempts made to address it are through the criminal justice system. These jails and prisons make young thugs into vicious mobsters when they return home from years of incarceration. Many health studies on violence deplore the use of only the justice system to impact the problem.
This is not to say "don't jail" one who committed a violent act. The ideal thing to do is reform a sick violent inmate as opposed to sending them back on the street bad, bold and more extreme than their first day in prison.
The murder rate in some of our major cities in 2012 continued to be high with Newark at 92 after seeing 92 killings in 2011.
Camden seen its highest rate of murders ever with 67 death. Paterson, the state's third largest city had 24 murders, which was unprecedented. The state capital, Trenton had 24 murders and Elizabeth, the states fourth largest city matched one of its worst with 17 killings.
The unusual incidents of murder rates and violent incidents happen in towns and boroughs that would have never seen these occurrences. In the past five years towns such as New Brunswick, Franklin, Linden, Lakewood, Roselle, and Old Bridge received their share of violence.
The epidemic of violence now has reached the national agenda. Since the recent mass shootings including the Batman movie shooting in Colorado or the killing of the 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook elementary school in connecticut the public made this issue a priority.
Many believe as long as the killings remained mostly urban, poor, and black the issue of violence remains off the national agenda.
However, the Center for Disease and Control in January 2012 issued a report urging the federal government to address violence as a public health crisis.
The National UYC took up the CDC request and pushed counties statewide to declare violence a public health crisis. Of the 21 counties statewide, six counties made the resolution and Union County became the first to establish a commission on youth violence.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, homicide by firearm is now the second leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for 15 to 19-year-old whites.
For African-Americans in that same bracket, homicide is the number one leading cause of death.
A five year study by the American Psychological Association found that the average child has witnessed 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence on television by the time he or she completed the sixth grade.
A professor once said "if you get love and positive feed back in the early part of your life, you will feel remorse if you hurt someone, and those feelings will stop you from doing harm. You can then be exposed to violence but not become violent."
Our children need us to pay close attention to this national crisis and respond accordingly. We believe Senate Bill S2430 addresses this concern and places it on track for a cure to this societal sickness.
Support the bill and sign our online petition on our website unitedyouthcouncil.org.
Director/Chairman National United Youth Council Inc NJ Anti-Violence Coalition