Americans hear tragic stories every day involving guns! However, we must discuss community change if we are going to stop violent behavior! Government, police, schools and nonprofit groups work to reduce violence with educational programs on child abuse, bullying, drug abuse, domestic violence and gangs. Political leaders write new gun control laws to stop gun violence. However, citizens need a multifaceted approach to break the cycle of violence. We need to address, America's spiritual crisis and strengthening families.

Americans gave away their power to keep cities safe when neighbors turned the responsibility over to police. As crime increased, city leaders hired additional police and turned to technology to increase public safety! With increasing police responsibilities, the healthy balance between police and citizens declined. In some areas, citizens fear police and do not report criminal activities.

For decades, taxpayers funded the “war on drugs” and the “war on poverty.” Citizens grew increasingly dependent, as cities became crime ridden. We lost generations of youth to drugs, crime and gangs, as disconnected youth with guns spread fear and destruction.

As society changed, self-image became the goal of the “me” generation. “Experts” fueled the sexual revolution with new values and role models. Divorce, domestic violence and infidelity became commonplace as children grew increasingly neglected and confused. Angry young people discovered a false sense of power as gangs, prostitution and other self-destructive behaviors increased.

Bully/victim behavior reflected disconnected families. Many teenagers no longer valued themselves or others. Education and religious influences were not valued as thousands of teens dropped out of school.

Drug abuse and violence are signs of unmet needs and guns became power tools to feel important. The message is… ”Notice me!” I need to belong to feel good about myself!

Over the years, we ignored our spiritual roots. We accepted a new generation lacking emotional maturity and anti-social behavior as police struggle to keep cities safe. Americans are paying a high price for not teaching children how to grow spiritually centered! Is it any wonder teens lacking an understanding of their amazing inner spirit turned to drugs and other addictions to escape life?

Based on my experience as a crime and violence prevention specialist for 36 years, I see lack of self-awareness, disconnected families and social isolation contributing to gun violence. City leaders, police, religious leaders and citizens must work together to reduce fear and criminal activity. Neighbors must stay connected to prevent criminals from returning. As neighbors build trust, they see the benefits of protecting each other and becoming new role models for youth!

Politicians and community leaders have the power to create change in every city! With reduced budgets, Americans need to hear the message from city leaders and help by reaching out to support families.

We can protect and keep children safe by focusing on faith, family and community to strengthen families. Community leaders can break the cycle of abuse, which threatens to bankrupt and destroy our American way of life. The annual cost of crime in the U.S. is $1.7 trillion a year. (Source: Univ. of Chicago - Journal of Law and Economics)

What city leaders can do:

Focus on community building for health and safety. Connected neighbors can restore the human touch so children feel safe and protected. Involved neighbors reduce fear and social isolation as they increase the check and balance on juvenile behavior before teens get out of control.

Appoint a planning committee of 8 to 10 volunteers, to focus on… strengthening families! The committee decides on an action plan and promotes a SAFE CITY campaign to get neighbors connected. Volunteers reach out into the community and promote community responsibility for neighborhood safety. (Based on city size, several groups can be formed.)

Ideas might include:
Encourage city employees such as police and firemen to be role models and host social gatherings to help build neighborhood trust.

Encourage leading city pastors to motivate other pastors to set the example of “Love thy Neighbor” to strengthen community bonds.

Invite civic and church groups to start projects to help neighbors’ work together on community gardens, safety fairs, clean up, etc. In cities, 1 in 5 youth have Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Offer neighbors a safe place to share concerns to reduce stress.

Involve and train youth, with adult support, to go door to door to conduct surveys and to assist isolated neighbors. Help seniors with home maintenance.

Invite existing neighborhood leaders to discuss ideas, strategies and how to overcome stumbling blocks.

Train Community Coaches in areas with language barriers.

Reward and publicize neighborhood successes.

Create a list of resources and volunteer opportunities.

Publicize, Publicize, Publicize for success!

We can make cities safe and reduce gun violence if we get organized for community change. Every child deserves a safe, healthy neighborhood to grow and thrive.

Author's Bio: 

Stephanie Mann, Exec. Director, Safe Kids Now
Author: 4 national crime prevention books
“Alternative to Fear: Guidelines for safer neighborhoods,” (1975) helped launch “Neighborhood Watch.” Guidelines: How one town cut crime in half within 2 1/2 years, without a local police department.
"Street Safe Kids: 10 step to build self-esteem and stay centered."
"The Adopt-A-Block Guidebook" and/or ebook for safe neighborhoods

Safe Kids Now