What is human life worth?

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    Some Detroit neighborhoods rapidly becoming killing fields 


    24211f2f856e7500030f6a706700f886Is human life worth arguing over a seat at a baby shower?

    Is it worth fighting over a cell phone or girlfriend?

    That is where Detroit currently is as violent crime continues to steal the lives of innocent children, making them victims of conflicts — some so trivial that it is impossible to fathom — they had no role in. 

    The children were in the wrong place at the wrong time, some in a presumed safe place — their own homes. 

    The rate at which these atrocities are happening begs for a swift and lasting resolution. It is everyone’s problem in that we are all affected.

    We cannot concede our  neighborhoods to those who have decided to make them their killing fields. Something has to give. Our children cannot keep dying,  our seniors cannot continue be prisoners in their own homes, fearing to step out because of the likelihood of their becoming the next crime statistic. Our schools must not be battlefields. Our businesses should not have to operate in an atmosphere of fear.

    This is where the wisdom and the capability of the Detroit Police Department (DPD) is being put to the test. As these crimes are taking place almost every day, many are looking for answers from the police before taking the law into their own hands. 

    DPD should show us that under its leader, Chief Ralph Godbee Jr., it can stem the tide of violence. 

    We are always asked to have faith in the men and women in blue for putting their lives on the line to protect us. 

    At the same time we must ask of these men and women to give us a reason to have faith in them. Citizens have every right to expect quality work from its police force — and to feel safe on the streets and in their homes.

    It is beyond a tragedy that children’s lives are being brought to an abrupt and violent end before they have even had a chance to really live.  The shame is ours.

    In the case of nine-month-old Delric Miller, we perhaps have lost a boy who could have grown up to be among this city’s leaders. 

    I’ve been listening to some of the analyses that have been given in the wake of the shootings, and I must confess some of it is just plain twisted. Most of them conclude that poverty is the root cause, so let’s just give up. 

    No. 

    It should not matter what one’s background is. We have not declared in this city that protection should be based on the economic scale, and that is not what the men and women in blue are sworn to do. They are expected to serve residents and businesses in this city regardless of who they are or where they live. 

    That is why the intervention of U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and the various federal law enforcement agencies is welcome news. Criminals, and those contemplating crimal activity, are cognizant of the fact that federal sentencing is stricter than local sentencing.

    If it takes federal intervention to arrest the madness of violence in our communities, it should serve as an impetus on how to collaborate on other issues that may stretch out the resources of our local government. Or put simply, when the money isn’t there given the economic mess the city of Detroit is in.  

    But beyond what the Detroit police and the federal government can do, lies the most important partner — the community whose responsibility it is to take back their streets and neighborhoods from people who are hell-bent on transforming them into war zones. 

    Forget about the politics of whether you like Detroit Mayor Dave Bing or Chief Godbee. 

    What we need is community policing and that can only happen if Detroit police and other agencies seeking to put a break on the cycle of violent crime, can find meaningful partners. The need is crucial.

    Finding such partners will require more than press conferences. It would mean really becoming part of the community by attending block club meetings and other community events that allow law enforcement to interact with the community in a non-threatening atmosphere. 

    When people are scared or afraid they will not give information. 

    Arriving at an incident scene hours after to get information from people will yield little result if officers in a particular district have not built a relationship of trust with that community before an incident. In simple terms, people talk to who they know. They don’t talk to strangers. 

    The ball is in our court. Looking the other way only serves to make a bad situation worse, as does playing the blame game. All of us can do something to stop the killing fields. Getting involved in some way is essential.

    Your child or you could be the next victim.  

    Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part series on the Obama presidency, including “Obama and Black Loyalty”published last year. His latest book is”Obama and Christian Loyalty” with an epilogue written by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. His upcoming books in 2012 are  “Obama and Jewish Loyalty”and ”Obama and Business Loyalty.”  Listen to him every Thursday, 11:30 a.m., on WDET 101.9 FM Detroit and every Sunday, 9 to 10 p.m. on “The Obama Watch” program on WLIB 1190 AM-New York.  E-mail bthompson@michchronicle.com.

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