I've been working on a story about the gun violence in North St. Louis this summer. Seven people were shot in North St. Louis over the weekend and one of them died from their gunshot wounds. Each weekend it seems there's another outbreak of violence, followed by funerals and vigils. How many times have you heard these stories and asked why people keep hurting each other?
We wanted to know what police are doing to combat the violence and talked with St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom about the problem. We also talked with James Clark of the non-profit organization, Better Family Life, about the root causes of violence in North St. Louis and the efforts of that organization to address those causes.
The two of them explained, with greater clarity than I'd ever heard before, why there's a seemingly never ending cycle of violence. Think of it as the recipe for the perfect stew, except in this case it's the ingredients for a boiling pot of frustration, broken neighborhoods and violence. Here are the ingredients that Chief Isom and Mr. Clark told me have been stirred into the fabric of life in North St. Louis.
- Children born to young, single parents who often don't have the necessary parenting skills or support to raise children to successfully navigate our complex world.
- As a result some children don't get the ethical foundation to help them resist the peer pressure they face.
- Too many parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents who don't keep track of where teens are going or who they're riding around with and look the other way when teens start hanging around with others who are committing crimes or start committing crimes themselves.
- The glamorization and adoption of a "thug" lifestyle.
- A substandard educational system & high dropout rate.
- Lack of job opportunities.
- Little or no recreational opportunities to keep unemployed teens busy (bored teens with lots of time & no supervision are a recipe for trouble in any neighborhood).
James Clark told me that at the core of the crime and violence problems in North St. Louis are family and neighborhood issues. His organization and the St. Louis Police Department are working through a number of programs, completely separate from crime fighting, to address those issues.
Our story will air Thursday on News 4 at Ten.