February 17th 2011
Just last month Camden City was again disparaged by headlines in the national papers.
"HALF OF POLICE FORCE LAID OFF!"
National news commentators reveled in the irony of America’s most dangerous city losing—not gaining—police on the streets.
We support great policing. And, happily there are many dedicated police officers in Camden who work hard to protect our law abiding citizens - including a former UrbanPromise StreetLeader, who patrols our neighborhood!
Yet, I find it interesting in all the debates and media attention, no one really talks about alternative ways to address the problem of crime—especially with youth. As a society we seem to think that incarcerating and policing our way out of the problem, rather than doing the hard work of investing in the development of our young people, is the way forward.People are outraged by the reduction in the police force, but they show little passion about making investments in prevention of crime. Even local church doors remain closed to neighborhood kids Monday through Saturday.
Many of our states have created huge deficits, spending money on the building of more prisons as they try to build and fence our way out of the issue of crime.
Wouldn’t we be wiser to spend our dollars on programs which keep young people out of jail and off the streets while in the process developing character and a vision for their lives? Wouldn’t it be wiser for the Christian community to step up to the plate to initiate
ministries which invest in young people, create safe places and support our youth before they get into trouble with the police?
MAKE A DONATION: https://www.servicenetwork.com/olg/upusa-c/Donate.asp?Frequency=Monthly&Code=A211
What creates safer and more peaceful neighborhoods? Police certainly play a role but we at UrbanPromise know from our 23 years of experience that the 500 children and teens in our programs have the potential to significantly reduce crime and minimize the need for police. The kids in our program often police themselves while calling their friends and family to higher standards of behavior and conduct.
The choice is obvious. And significantly less expensive.
And that is what UrbanPromise does 365 days a year. We do the hard work of investing in young people, helping them develop into visionary Christian leaders, leaders who are changing their neighborhoods by being positive role models.
I spent an afternoon at the Camden Court House a few weeks ago. A group of UrbanPromise staff were supporting a 16 year old who had gotten in trouble with the law. The young man had a rap sheet that started at age 9, but with our help was now taking strides to turn his life around. As I looked around the court room, I made a mental calculation of the cost for the tax payer for this one hour hearing: a judge, two court reporters, a public prosecutor, a defense lawyer, a woman who monitors electric ankle bracelets, a social worker, a psychologist and several security guards—all salaried and with benefits. Our 16 year old friend had no idea his afternoon in court cost us tax payers thousands of dollars. And every time any young boy returns to the courthouse, or goes to jail, our costs continue to escalate.
The good news in this too common story is that my 16 year old friend, who has become involved with UrbanPromise, is moving in a new direction. Instead of adding to the crime statistics in his neighborhood, and the escalating costs for each of us, he is now mentoring and guiding younger children from his neighborhood away from the destructive path he has traveled. This past summer he served as a StreetLeader (a counselor for younger kids) for UrbanPromise. This helps reduce crime. This helps reduce the need for more police officers. Instead of the state paying $75,000 to keep him detained for a year, he is spending the year with UrbanPromise – and he is
helping to redirect other children.
In a time of severe budget cuts and reduced policing, more than ever we need to keep our programs, events and activities consistent and growing—creating safe, peaceful places for our children to come after school, in the evenings and on weekends.
Please consider making a PLEDGE of Safety to our young people by underwriting a day of quality programming at UrbanPromise for just $26. Or consider underwriting two days for $52, a week for $186 or two weeks for $364.
I thank you in advance!
Dr. Bruce Main