There have been four shootings in the Westville Manor community in the last seven days—last Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and after midnight Wednesday. Even in a community where two gunshot murders happened in 2013, this is extreme.
Solar Youth has had its office in Westville Manor, a development run by the Housing Authority of New Haven, since 2005. In nine years, while there were occasional shootings, we never had to address the questions of risk that now come up regularly.
I was in our office, working on Solar Youth‘s 2014-15 budget, at 7 p.m. Sunday when one of the shootings occurred. (I hadn’t known about the previous ones.) After the initial surprise and adrenaline, a call to 911 and out-the-window inquiries to neighbors, within 20 minutes children were back out on bicycles, and I went back to the computer.
Only on the drive home, when it occurred to me to check my car for bullet holes, did I realize that I hadn’t stopped to think, “HOLY CRAP! SOMEONE JUST FIRED A GUN!”
I questioned if I had started to become, at least functionally, desensitized. So I called a friend who I could talk to about it (but not one I thought would worry too much about my safety).
But upon hearing from the police Thursday morning about the three other shootings, I now became responsible for the security of Solar Youth’s 10 employees in a new way: When does it become too dangerous, even when the children and families we love have no choice to not be there?
As a team we are figuring out what to do to be and to feel safe, while continuing to do the close-out work for our spring season and planning work for the summer to come. But we also felt we needed to send a message to the children of the neighborhood, all of whom we love (including the ones with guns in their belts). With the help of some of our most eager stewards, we painted a 30-foot banner that says simply, “You Are Important To Us.”
The kids and some parents added their messages: “Stop the Violence! Don’t Shoot People;” “Guns Kill So keep your hands off!”; “You are loved;” “Guns are Bad.”
Friday the brave staff of Solar Youth and every other youth development organization in New Haven will continue the difficult but joyfully rewarding work of providing emotional, motivational and strategic support to as many of our city’s kids as we can with the far-too-scarce resources we have. Help us in this work by thinking of ways we can all show young people that their lives matter, that they have value and that they are loved, and important.
posted by: Anderson Scooper on May 30, 2014 11:27am
I think we need to be honest with ourselves in that all this violence is related to drug dealing and the control of drug profits.
Across America the status quo isn’t working, and at some point we need to think about decriminalizing drug use and allowing health clinics to distribute whatever they want, while still trying to get users help.
As long as there is money to be made, the violence will continue.
posted by: HewNaven on May 30, 2014 11:43am
We need an organization like Solar Youth in every single neighborhood.
posted by: jim1 on May 30, 2014 1:43pm
GUNS ARE NOT BAD! PEOPLE ARE..
posted by: JohnTulin on May 30, 2014 1:56pm
AS - Its really not about drub profits at all, you are giving these shooters far too much credit. A few years ago one of my students (a ninth grader) shot a little girl in the stomach ...because she spit on his new sneakers. I, and every veteran NHPS teacher, could rattle off a bunch of similar stories.
posted by: HewNaven on May 30, 2014 2:20pm
I think we need to be honest with ourselves in that all this violence is related to drug dealing and the control of drug profits… As long as there is money to be made, the violence will continue.
You could easily make the same claim for any sphere of business. “As long as there is money to be made, the violence will continue.”
I agree, regulation of any business activity COULD prevent the nefarious acts (e.g. murder) that we generally associate with money-making, but there are still no guarantees simply because we elevate a given trade above the black-market in which it previously existed and expose it to the scrutiny of authorities. It certainly makes those nefarious acts more likely to be prosecuted and prevented, I cannot disagree with that.
Regardless, you’re over-simplifying this complex issue and denigrating the lives that have been lost which were not in any way related to drugs. I know of AT LEAST one example when a man on my block was murdered in 2012. NHPD determined it was a robbery attempt and this was verified by a close relative who witnessed the murder. Officially, it had nothing to do with drugs! Should I assume the police are lying about this case?
posted by: cvette77 on May 30, 2014 4:21pm
These same type of problems have been going on in Westville Manor for the last 20 years Gun shots, drug dealing, stolen car recovery, illegal dirt bike riding, noise complaint issues, Illegal Fireworks getting blown off & so on if U live there U will see it. A maned Police sub staion needs to be put there again. Police do walk the beat there at times but they need to be present more often.Most of the problems occure from people that don’t even live there, they hang out cause problems then leave.On another issue Westville Manor needs to be torn down & rebuilt like Brookside and Rockview w/ a more screened tennat base. There are mold issues in all the Westville Manor apartments causing health concerns for the tennants.
Guns, of course, are inanimate and reducing the conversation to ‘guns are bad’ or ‘guns are awesome’ isn’t useful. Anderson Scooper makes a good point about the drug trade, but the business interests most to blame is the gun manufacturers who are profiting handsomely off the carnage in our cities and the world at large. Millions and millions of guns, manufactured and sold, most of them cheaply. Almost no regulatory incentive for any individual owner to maintain them securely and where laws about gun safes and trigger locks do exist, they’re rarely enforced when people fail to comply and tragedy ensues.
The comedian Chris Rock has a famous gallows humor routine about how if we can’t regulate guns, we should regulate bullets and tax them at $5,000 or so, so if someone gets shot, the public could more reasonably be confident that he had it coming.
The gun enthusiasts like to point out that criminals don’t obtain guns legally, but they’re less likely to acknowledge that at some point in their existence, all of the guns being used illegally have started their existence in the legitimate supply chain. Somewhere, they slipped out. Where? Why is no one held accountable? The answer from the gun enthusiasts is that it’s silly to blame someone when his guns are stolen, but this happens often enough that it ought to be considered an entirely foreseeable occurrence.
Personally, I do think the regulations, costs and consequences of gun ownership should be immense—that is, once a person purchases a gun, he’s responsible for it, and everything it’s used for, until he either transfers with legal documentation or it’s melted down before witnesses. Maybe then there would be fewer available.
posted by: Champ358 on May 30, 2014 6:03pm
The relationship of the prohibition of drugs and violence can be verified by a look at history in this country. During the alcohol prohibition era, violence and turf wars and gangs were active in every large city. Incarceration and homicide both increased during prohibition and decreased after repeal. Ending the prohibition on drugs will not solve the violence plague that we suffer but it will be a start.
It wouldn’t hurt to end our national policy of invading numerous countries as a means of ending perceived political problems. Institutional violence certainly begets individual violence or there is some other uncanny coincidence going on.
And there are very few real coincidences.
posted by: qave2014 on May 31, 2014 10:35pm
posted by: THadari on June 1, 2014 12:10am
What a beautiful response and message Joanne and her staff are sending to the young people of Westville Manor and New Haven. Joanne and Solar Youth are doing such amazing and crucial work in this city.
The message on their banner is so critical, because it hones in on the root. People resort to violence and crime when they are desperate and see little or no value in their own lives or someone else’s. Yes, many of Westville Manor’s residents live in poverty, and guns and drugs abound; but the real tragedy of poverty is NOT not being able to put food on the table or witnessing drug culture proliferate; it’s when kids grow up feeling like the world doesn’t have much to offer them and that they don’t have much to offer the world. People need to “feel important”—that they hold some kind of value to their community.
Solar Youth and other youth development organizations in this town work tirelessly towards providing love and support and guiding youth to develop the kinds of skills that will ultimately lead them to understand that they offer something to the world—crucial non-cognitive skills such as self-regulation, delayed gratification, ability to control temper, focus, curiosity, resilience, and persistence.
In contrast, here is some discouraging news: 135 youth in New Haven were arrested in 2009 for violent crime. It costs an average of $35,000 to keep one person in prison for just one year. It costs an average of 2 million dollars to keep one of those youth in prison for the rest of his or her life. Furthermore, approximately 3,343 of this city’s kids will end up in the future on some type of permanent government subsidy in the form of housing assistance, daycare assistance, food stamps, healthcare. This costs taxpayers an average of $43,000 per person a year.
Doesn’t it make more sense to invest in our youth on the front end than end up paying so much more to lock them up and/or assist them later?
posted by: THadari on June 1, 2014 12:13am
(continued from previous post…)
As a community, we need to support organizations like Solar Youth that provide consistent, constant, long-term mentoring programs and relationships so that we can keep kids out of the juvenile justice system and empower them to become healthier, more productive citizens.
As individuals, we need to provide all of our young people with opportunities to discover their “importance.”
It will save the city, the state, and ultimately all of us thousands of dollars in the future.
posted by: Atticus Shrugged on June 3, 2014 10:31am
The housing authority is the single largest housing entity for year-round tenants in the City. To blame a shooting or even a few on Karen Walton and to call for her firing over the same truly displays a lack of understanding. While you all are at it, why not call for Jimmy Miller as well who grew the NHHA into it’s current size? And we know that all of this is really a call for the mayor’s resignation because she hasn’t in six months and two days managed to solve gun violence while walking backwards on water.
With that said, I’m in favor of divesting the housing authority of certain of its property not because it is too large but because it has an unfair economic advantage. It can issue section 8 vouchers and generally doesn’t have to really compete to make its complexes function. I think that a general lack of market forces is bad.
However, we should not call for a resignation simply because the expected happens. This is an impoverished neighborhood with a history of violence. A housing administrator cannot solve this problem alone. And to that end, I’d like to thank Solar Youth for their work in the community.
The reasons for gun violence are myriad. Though, they (the reasons or really that particular form of violence) could not exist without “guns.” I’m all for the very loosely construed modern interpretation of the second amendment, but we as a society need to begin thinking of the risk/reward. It’s not as though there has been (since the Japanese internment) a time when our service