Thursday, February 04, 2010

Violence: A Community's Problem

Along with many people this week, I watched in horror as the brutal attack of Harold Cabral, one of our City of Vallejo public works employees, unfolded on video clips released by the Vallejo Police Department. It was sickening to watch and horrifying to see that people – especially kids – could act with such callous, senseless brutality. It’s just haunting.

My heart goes out to Mr. Cabral and his family, and I wish him a speedy recovery. I’m happy to see employee groups, other organizations and individuals coming together to donate money towards the reward fund to find and prosecute the perpetrators of this terrible crime. I know some of my fellow councilmembers feel the same, and we will be contributing to this fund ourselves. I sincerely hope that every single person who participated in this cruel attack is punished to the fullest extent of the law.

I know that I’m not the only one who is shocked, outraged and disappointed by this violence. People need to express these feelings, and I’m getting a lot of emails and phone calls from people doing just that. I’ve done the same. But I do hope that we can move those feelings into an acknowledgement of our problems, and an active generation of ideas on how to address them.

Unfortunately, I’m also seeing a lot of finger pointing: not enough police officers, too high of employee salaries, poor city management, bad police department management, absent parents/single parents, a deteriorating school system, a poor economy, bankruptcy, poverty, racism, hatred and anger.

We’ve got to stop the finger pointing. We’ve got to come together as a community to stop this kind of violence. We need to give our kids something to do after school and during the summer. We need to help teach them respect for people and life. Our children are missing a very large part of their “citizenship education” as they’re growing up. Whatever the cause – be it poverty, reduced educational opportunities, less parental participation – this is our problem. Vallejo’s problem. Society’s problem.

I’d like to bring together a small group of community and business leaders to create an action plan on how we as a community can start to address the issues of youth violence and personal responsibility. We need to begin a dialogue with our youth – and not just the kids who are already tuned in, but kids who are tuned out, too. We need to create a city youth commission, to give kids a say in what happens in their city government and their community. And we need the Police Chief to give this community some creative solutions on how the Police Department can help us address some of Vallejo’s most pressing crime problems using the resources that we have.

The time for excuses is over. Let’s get to work.

If you have any constructive ideas, please send me an email at sgomes@ci.vallejo.ca.us.

Information on this crime can be provided to the Vallejo Police Department at (800) 488-9383, 24 hours a day. Also, the Solano Crime Stoppers™ tip line (644-STOP) is a anonymous tip line that offers cash rewards for phone tips that solve violent and/or serious crimes committed in the greater Vallejo area.

If you want to contribute to the reward being offered to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of this crime, contact Sergeant Kevin Bartlett at 707/651-7145.