I came across a news story several months back that I’ve been meaning to comment on. Here’s The New York Post headline that originally caught my eye: Arrests Soar For Young & Ruthless. In their report the Post documented an alarming trend in crimes committed by youth in New York City. No question, the facts are disturbing: 52,936 youth (ages 13-18) had been arrested during 2006. Don’t rush too quickly past that figure.
That’s more than half the population of Albany, the state’s capital.
What’s going on? Why are so many teens in New York City robbing, raping, assaulting, and murdering others on the streets? Furthermore, why are the incidents of disorderly conduct, sex offenses, and bomb threats at school on the rise, too?
The Post quoted Bobby Ferazi, head of the Police Athletic League’s Youth Link program for kids in the Bronx, as saying, “It’s an alarming trend of more kids getting into the juvenile justice system through school.” The Youth Link project counsels teens who are on probation for the crimes they’ve committed and assists them with their homework.
The Post also cited a report indicating that more than half of the city’s 300,000 public school students are without access to this or any other after-school program. Translation: some believe more government-funded, after-school activities are needed if New York City is to get a handle on juvenile crime. Personally, I don’t think that’s a good long-term strategy.
True, after-school programs sound good on the surface. But I’m uncomfortable with the federal, state, or local government stepping in to do the job of a parent. This may sound old fashioned, but in terms of effectiveness parents working with their children ought to trump anything the government can throw at the problem.
What happened to the concept that if you’re married and you decide to have kids, those children become your responsibility? What would it look like if, instead of becoming a giant nanny state, we found a way to encourage parents to step-up and get excited about doing their job?
When it comes to juvenile crime – whether in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, or Storm Lake, Iowa – I’ve got to believe that a parent is the first and best line of defense. Done right, the home should be a place where adults are actively involved in their child’s life, helping with homework, listening to their problems, and giving them guidance to work through conflicts with friends.
I think the reason this article touched me is that during my teen years, I didn’t have the benefit of a mom or dad in my corner rooting for me. You see, they had both died by then. I would have given anything to have their loving support and participation in my life. Now that I’m a father, I know spending time with my boys requires effort and an investment of time – but the rewards are priceless.
What would happen in New York City – and beyond – if, instead of relying upon more government programs, we encouraged parents to be better parents?