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HOWELL: To Stop Philadelphia Violence, Mentors Need to Step Up for Troubled Youth

Our city of Philadelphia is known to be called “Killadelphia,” a slang reference to the city of Brotherly Love due to its high murder rate. That is not a good name to be known by in our 2020 decade era. Our politicians have to do way more to change Philadelphia’s narrative and reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in America.

I agree with Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker’s 100-day action plan focusing on public safety, clean and green, housing, economic opportunity, education, and roundtables (business, faith-based, and intergovernmental). More specifically, hiring 300 additional foot and bike patrol officers to walk a beat in every neighborhood of the city, getting to know the community they’re sworn to protect and serve without any tolerance for misuse or abuse of their power.

But still, to this day, almost every day, a shooting is reported in our city of Philadelphia, and it is astounding that this still happens today compared to the 1990s to now. It is also not just Philadelphia. It is our surrounding Delaware Valley, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.

The crime rate seems to be increasing due to what is being reported in the news media lately, such as juvenile thefts, drug possession, gun possession, and domestic violence. The drug epidemic, including opioids plus fentanyl, we as civilians in Pennsylvania are all witnessing is entirely out of control. Even our youth starting at such a young age with vapes and electronic cigarettes is disappointing. Smoking does not have to be the only way to relieve stress and try to escape reality.

More funds must be allocated to our police departments across southeastern Pennsylvania to provide more resources to stop this lawbreaking. Focusing on the youth, they need more attention than ever before. When youth are out on the streets committing crimes, shooting, robbing, and selling drugs, all they need is just more in-depth mentorship.

There are plenty of leaders who are of color who can be mentors to all these troubled youth. But the youth have to listen to them. Patience is the key. In this era we live in now, we are trying too hard to be competitive, and social media attention is ridiculous.

There are a lot of organizations out there that are already doing so, but more needs to be emphasized. More constructive solutions from all organizations providing youth mentors need to be established.

In my perspective, if you take guns out of homes, then the murder rate will go down substantially.

House Bill 777 will help significantly with gun violence. On January 17, the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee approved putting the bill in place. The bill closes a loophole in state law to prohibit the production or sale of “ghost gun” components. Either sold separately or in kits that are easily accessed and assembled to make a gun, these parts lack serial numbers and are untraceable in future investigations. Ghost guns are a way for people who are not legally allowed to possess a firearm to evade detection and background checks. Our civilians have to stop this senseless violence crisis.

Making Philadelphia the safest, cleanest, and greenest big city in the nation, with economic opportunity for all, has not been nearly done yet. Many would agree, especially in our senior citizen age range, that nothing changed in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Technology has advanced through the years, but the crime rate is still rising.

Lastly, there needs to be more resources for mental health services. With all this gun violence going on, schools, jobs, and all religious establishments should offer more mental healthcare options because you never know what is going on with someone. There is a lot of divide in America nowadays due to most citizens’ political views. This anger has to stop, and only our police forces and politicians can do that.

It is a shame that generation after generation is experiencing crime and gun violence at such a high level. It is a continuous toxic cycle we are experiencing with crime, drugs, and gun violence, and it needs to be put to an end. But some of us still believe that some things will never change.

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New Mentorship Program Underway in Abington to Help Troubled Teens

Eight teenagers were arrested at Abington High School on Thursday after a fight broke out. Police charged them with riot and simple assault.

The eight were part of two groups—the Young Rushers and Young Sliders– who have been feuding for some time now and have become involved in more serious violence since Keivon Abraham, 16, was shot and killed in Philadelphia in May, said Abington Police Lt. Kevin Magee. He called the factions “quasi-gangs.”

“The sad part is they all used to be friends,” said Magee.

The Abington Police have been working with state Sen. Art Haywood (D-Abington), school and township officials, and the Rev. Marshall Mitchell, pastor of the Salem Baptist Church, to set up a team of mentors to help this troubled group of about 30 young Black teenagers. Magee said that if the mentorship pilot program succeeds, the hope is to expand it to the middle school and Cheltenham Township schools.

“Unfortunately, some of these kids have been fighting nonstop,” Magee added. And it’s not just fighting. There have also been instances of Molotov cocktails thrown, he said.

Mitchell said the idea was born of a phone call with Abington Police Chief Patrick Malloy, who he calls a good friend.

“We’ve got to do things right now to change the trajectory,” said Mitchell. He knew he had parishioners with skills to help, including three African-American psychiatrists and two people with doctorates in psychology.

The program, which is just getting underway, has hired Uplift Solutions, which works with the courts in Philadelphia, to help get youngsters back on the right path.

“We want to be very targeted and strategic and see if we can make a difference,” said Mitchell.

Tyrone Manning, constituent services manager for Haywood, is working on the mentorship project. It recruits and identifies mentors, who are then vetted and undergo training. There is also a matching process. For example, if a teen is interested in business, they are matched with someone in the business world.

“We’re making sure we have the right mentor with the right child,” he said. And there will be two or three mentors per child.

According to Manning, some teens are dealing with grief and need mental health counseling. Others are abusing illegal drugs and alcohol.

Manning said they’ve reached out to parents, some of whom welcome the initiative, while others do not want to get involved.

Asked about the issue of absentee fathers, Mitchell said there were other issues as well.

“Why aren’t there more fathers in our homes? There’s a hopelessness in African Americans today,” he said, and when people are hopeless, they run.

As for problems with youth, he believes social media is the number one issue, with fatherlessness as second. He said COVID and school closures played a role in elevating social media in kids’ lives.

“Social media is driving a ton of bad behavior, exacerbated by COVID,” said Mitchell. But other “pathologies are centuries in the making.”

“There is a lack of Black role models,” he said. He believes this new mentorship program will change that. They are starting with a group of young Black males who have been getting into trouble and then expanding the program to more kids.

“This is fighting a battle so we can begin to fight the war,” said Mitchell. “In the age of COVID, it’s a different way for a church to function in the world.”

Mitchell said the program does not have a website yet, but people can call the church if they’re interested in volunteering:  (215) 884-7664

“We’ll take prayers now and money later,” he said.


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