Fort Myers City Councilor Johnny Streets Jr. has urged parents – and people who take responsibility for absent parents – to play a bigger role in curbing crime in the city.
At a council meeting on Monday evening, Streets warned that poor personal lives are responsible for driving some young people into crime.
“A book I read three times, ‘A Home Is a Dirty Street’, says that some of our young people would rather be on the streets than at home,” Streets said.
The book, written in 1975 by Useni Eugene Perkins, a Chicago sociologist known for his work with young people in Chicago, has the full title of the book, subtitled “The Social Oppression of Black Children.”
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Streets, who served as a Fort Myers police officer for 26 years, spoke on the fly for about 10 minutes about crime in the city, especially in urban neighborhoods, its impact on youth and factors that lead young people to crime.
Diggs seeks $ 1.96 million grants
Police Commissioner Derrick Diggs was at the council meeting with other members of the Council Actions Department to accept some grant funds and approve applications for others.
Almost $ 2 million in funds have been received or requested.
The council accepted nearly $ 10,800 from the National Police Athletic League for youth programs.
The council approved applications for a $ 1 million grant to develop a comprehensive youth violence prevention program, a $ 700,000 application for a local arms intelligence center initiative, and a $ 200,000 grant to teach officials how to de-escalate tense situations.
A grant application for nearly $ 50,000 would buy bulletproof vests for the police department and buy more license plate readers.
Streets: Let’s improve parenting skills
“The most important thing is that we have first-class, lower parenting. Now we have the youth to raise the parents, ”said Streets. “I think a discussion should be had to get things done.”
He compared the current crime rate to another wave of crime the city faced a quarter of a century ago when he was still with the police.
“What we are seeing now is something we saw in public housing many years ago. We had eight or nine murders a year in public housing,” Streets said. “Mayor Wilbur Smith met with some residents and Mrs. (Veronica) Shoemaker, Dr. (Ann) Knight. We decided to stop telling people what we would do and ask them what it takes. That was the key. ”
Shoemakers and knights were both members of the city council at the time, the first and second black women on duty.
Streets was a cop at the time. On Monday, he recalled that a group of activists wanted enforcement of traffic laws to allow police to be more active on housing projects. The police chief at the time did not think it effective for murder and chaos to take control of the city.
“He said, ‘It doesn’t make sense. We have murders and all these other problems and she wants us to be out there with a radar gun?'” Recalled Streets. “The next day we did it and we got drugs and guns that came into the community.”
Streets also said it is time to acknowledge that there are more police officers coming from outside of Fort Myers and even from outside of Florida.
“They do a good job, but they have one downside. The downside is that they don’t come from the community,” said Streets.
He called for young men and women who grew up locally to be recruited for careers in law enforcement in order to create an atmosphere in which they have a legitimate interest in the good of the community.
“That came up the other day when a young lady said, ‘I don’t see anyone in my community who do the police who looks like me,'” said Streets. “She was absolutely right, there weren’t any, and I said that people who ‘look like you’ are not ‘yours.’ It’s different here, so we have to bridge it. “
A spate of retirements among long-time members of the department is another concern. Older officials, Streets said, “are leaving the doors”.
Other council members later noted that retirements could be the result of fears that proposals to repeal laws restricting civil actions against police officers could go into effect and lead to financial ruin.
“I flinch when I hear that an officer has been killed. I flinch when I hear that an officer killed someone,” Streets said.
Brown seeks $ 500,000 for PAL programming
He also called for the continuation of a Diggs initiative to expand the Police Athletic League program and was supported by Councilor Teresa Watkins Brown.
“One of the best things we can do is keep supporting the PAL program, but I know he can’t do it all on his own,” said Brown. “He needs staff. If we’re going to develop this program, we have to give him the tools he needs, so I’ll ask that PAL get a budget of $ 500,000.”
The Police Department’s budget for the current fiscal year, which runs through September, is $ 45,000 for PAL programs.
“It is the best investment we can make in our community to support youth activities in our schools,” said Councilor Liston Bochette. “We give young people something for their free time.”
PAL is a national program founded in New York City in 1932 during the depths of the Great Depression.
In some areas, the term Police Athletic League has been changed to Police Activities Program to better include young people who are not interested in sports.
Streets urged other council members to participate in the care and intervention whenever possible.
“It’s our job. It’s not just a police job,” he said.
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