Boston By Night - Are the Streets Safe?
The news in the last month seems especially full of youth violence - from the murders in Mattapan to the national rise in bullying and teen suicides. It is hard to understand why these things happen and incredibly discouraging. I am encouraged that there are some amazing people and programs that work tirelessly to counter these actions.
Last month, I had the opportunity, along with my colleague Diane Hammer, to go on a Boston by Night tour through the Boston Foundation's Street Safe initiative recommended by SSW Associate Deans Suzanne Sankar and Sherdena Cofield, this evening gave me a closer look into what the streets can really look like and some people who really have the ability to make a difference and do so every evening. The street workers, some of them from these neighborhoods and who have been in prison themselves, are able to make a real connection with the youth in the neighborhoods. This is a respectful relationship and I was awed by the commitment and potential danger that these workers face. They are on the street from early evening to often past midnight and are available at all hours. I strongly admire the courage and dedication this takes. Sadly, they were surprised that "others' (those outside the neighborhood) cared and were interested.
Some other things I learned:
- The "troubled" youth strongly desire for peace in their neighborhoods and work hard to maintain this.
- They are sometimes restricted from visiting their own families because they are not allowed in certain areas and can be arrested for trespassing and loitering if they are found there.
- The South End has one of the highest incidents of violence and that one street over from where I regularly shop and have dinner is an area tucked away that is fraught with potential violence.
- Most violent incidents are not about gang turf these days but more about disrespect.
- CORIs keep many youth from getting a job and instead leave them with nothing to do.
- Most youth programs close down around 7 or 8 p.m. which leaves kids to hang out on the street after that.
I was incredibly inspired by my Boston by Night tour and think about it quite often. I think the more we can try to understand where others come from, reserve judgment and extend our willingness to lend support in whatever ways we can, will only help.