“Smart, Safe, and Fair: Strategies to Prevent Youth Violence, Heal Victims of Crimes, and Reduce Racial Inequality,” published through a collaboration between the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) and the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) addresses how to help youth…
Tallying Chicago’s violence during the first half of 2012, including a 39 percent jump in murders, it can be difficult to get what criminologist Tracy Siska is talking about. True, the streets are bloodied by gang warfare, said Siska, head of the Chicago Justice Project, an independent, non-profit research group that analyzes criminal justice data. The numbers don’t lie; there had been 260-plus murders through the end of June, up 72 over the same period last year. And overnight Tuesday, two girls 12, and 13, became the latest child victims of the gunfire here. Neither were thought to be intended targets, but rather were victims of errant gunfire just days after the release of a University of California Davis study showing the prevalence of stray-bullet victims.
But Siska has argued much of the media is playing the hype game, skewing reality for Chicagoans or observers by screaming with headlines about more city children getting murdered this public school year than any year since 2008 – the first full year of the recession – and countless stories of overnight mayhem suffered in many Chicago neighborhoods. There has been a parade of stories – ones Siska would agree should and must be told.
A scarlet red electric guitar would normally seem out of place at a youth violence forum, but Monday evening the bloodstained instrument served as a symbolic reminder of a young man’s life cut short. Eighteen-year-old Blake Jimerson clutched it in homage to his fallen friend Katerius “Terry” Moody throughout the “Just Squash It” Emergency Town Hall Meeting, an event prompted in part by the murder of the Benjamin E. Mays High School graduate on June 26th at an East Point block party. The 18-year-old crooner was fatally shot during an impromptu performance; four other teens were wounded. “This is the last thing Terry had on him before he died,” Jimerson, a recent Washington High School graduate, told the audience of more than 100 about his friend who had planned to enlist in the U.S. Marines next month. “The blood is still on it.”
The meeting at B.E.S.T. Academy, an all-male middle school in Northwest Atlanta, was touted as an opportunity for Metro Atlanta youth — and those who work directly with them — to come together to propose solutions.
Eighteen-year-old Katerius Moody was in the midst of belting out a verse of the song he’d penned with fellow Polo Boys singing group members, when bullets peppered the crowd during their performance three weeks ago at an East Point block party. The young crooner, a recent Mays High School graduate, was gunned down and four other teens were wounded before he could finish the lyrics to “We Go.”
The June 26th tragedy, and others like it, have inspired an Atlanta community leader to call an emergency town hall meeting Monday, where she says “frontline” child services workers, local leaders and, more importantly, young people themselves, will get to suggest ways to curb youth violence in metro Atlanta. Atlanta Public Schools staffer Tanya Culbreth contends Moody’s death and a recent outbreak of teen violence during the popular Screen On The Green event at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park inspired her to coordinate the event. Culbreth says she wasn’t satisfied with the outcome of a similar town hall meeting Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called following the Piedmont Park incident. “I applaud the mayor for calling an emergency meeting, but there wasn’t enough representation there from young people and those of us who work directly with young people every day,” contends Culbreth, the Home-School Parent Liaison for B.E.S.T. Academy, an all-male middle school in Northwest Atlanta. “We’re the experts and more of our voices need to be heard.