Jewish World Review Oct. 7, 2002 / 1 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
Charlie Young's fate was sealed when he pushed a 14-year-old friend of a boy that hit him with an egg late on a Sunday evening. The 10-year-old told police that he was hanging around the streets unsupervised looking for trouble. At 11 p.m.! On a school night!
The boy also admitted beating Mr. Young with a tree branch at the same time his gang beat the man with bats, chairs and wooden beams. All the boys watched and listened as Mr. Young's blood flowed out of his body and his screams filled the air.
In the courtroom, the 10-year-old boy's parents sat as he was arraigned. They do not live together. According to press reporters, the father denied his son had done anything, even as the boy confessed to the court.
If I were the prosecutor in this case, I would charge the 10-year-old's parents with criminal neglect. Maybe I would lose the case, but I'd definitely send a message.
The reason Charlie Young is dead is that America did not protect him. Our society allows neighborhoods like Little Beirut to exist all over the country. It is a sad fact of life that the police often do not enforce the law the same way in the poor neighborhoods that they do in the more affluent areas. Open-air drug dealing is tolerated in many places, as is vandalism, public intoxication and casual brutality.
But you don't see any marches to protest that. You don't see Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton demanding that crime be punished or that strict truancy laws be imposed. If it had been 16 white boys that had killed Charlie Young, mass demonstrations would have taken place. But because there is no racial component here, Charlie's murder is not worth a protest.
The brutal truth is that until the citizens of Little Beirut and other such places begin demanding accountability for acts that are destroying their environments, nothing will change. Until the "under siege" poor form an alliance with police and demand help from the media and the politicians, chaos will reign.
Society can impose order in these free-fire zones by doing the following: First, prosecute quality-of-life crimes such as street drug dealing, vandalism, child abuse and neglect, and public intoxication. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the NYPD accomplished an enormous drop in crime by doing this.
Second, mandate by law that all truancy be reported to the police by public-school principals.
Third, arrest parents for neglect if their children fail to attend school or are unsupervised late at night. Remember, every parent has an opportunity to contact the authorities if his or her child is uncontrollable. It is a parent's duty to do that.
Fourth, encourage church leaders in the neighborhoods to organize programs in which citizens can report criminal behavior directly to the clergy -- who in turn would contact the authorities. This sets up a "safe space" for the informer and gives people a sense of empowerment. After all, most Americans that live in these blighted neighborhoods are good people. They just need a system in place that they can trust.
All the pie-in-the-sky social programs will not impose order on streets dominated by criminals. Only force and organized resistance to irresponsible behavior will allow change. America has lost a legion of callow youths because their parents let them down. Now things must be stabilized in neglected neighborhoods so the next generation might have some safety and some hope.
If discipline is not imposed, the brutal merry-go-round will continue. But one rider will be missing. His name is Charlie Young.
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09/30/02: THE TRUTH BE TOLD