APR 9, 2014, 10:40 AM
Dawud Walid: Tough talk is no solution in wake of mob beatings
In the wake of two high profile violent incidents in Detroit, one which was fatal, I’m more convinced than ever that we cannot police and prosecute our way into having a safer city.
Steve Utash, a white suburbanite, recently suffered a brutal beating by group of black males close to an East Side gas station after he unintentionally hit a child with his truck. Two of the four arrested thus far are teenagers. One of the teens has already been charged as an adult for attempted murder.
Eric Miles, a black Detroiter, was later killed after an altercation close to a West Side gas station in which his murderer ran him over with a car.
Detroit has a horrendous reputation in part to the amount of violent crime that plagues the city each year. The brutal beating of Utash garnered national media attention and affirms for many that Detroit has rightfully earned its reputation as America’s most dangerous city.
I’m not sure, however, that charging minors as adults and columnists unrealistically waxing that such people need to be barred from the city is the answer.
If tough talk and mass incarceration were the answers to making Detroit safer, we’d be the safest city in America. Stricter laws and more jails are quite clearly not the answer.
Too many people in the city simply have no hope. People are surrounded by the miseries of unemployment, poverty and blight. All of this coupled with a failing school system and a culture of depravity sets the environment for the beatings like Utash’s and the murderers of hundreds of others in the past year such as Miles. Some 300 people, mostly young black men, die at the hands of another person in Detroit each year.
As I’m for gas stations putting an end to loitering and for the police to improve their dismal response times, what Detroit needs is more of cultural shift, vast improvement in education quality outside of the three “R’s” and long-term job opportunities strategy to assist its poorest citizens in high crime neighborhoods. Tougher sentences for youth on the school-to-prison pipeline won’t do it. This can only be done by highly organized efforts by faith leaders, educators, small business owners and city government working together, which has not occurred with much civility or consistency over the years.
As my heart is with the Utash, Miles and countless other families who’ve suffered at the hands of violence, my heart is also with working to solve the problems of the city, not simply browbeating its residents. I’m convinced that labeling people as “thugs” and hyper aggressive policing isn’t the answer.