Flickr photo by Chris Dick

Local neighborhoods can turn the tide of violence


By Eric Blauer

“A warrior putting on his sword for battle should not boast like a warrior who has already won.” -1 Kings 20:11

Violence is a part of our life in East Central Spokane. It manifests itself in many different forms, but the impact of its potential destructive presence is a problem that has shaped me in many ways.

Just this week, I was holding down the front desk at our Community Resource Center with another female staffer when a large, fairly intimidating black  man came in and started acting very bizarre. He was pummeling me with questions about how to protect himself from white men attacking him. He barked out stuff about white women always touching black men and white men sexually abusing children. He deflected all my attempts to direct him to possible help or support and things kept escalating. At one point, he leaned towards me and asked me if I was looking into his soul. It was a tense, unnerving moment where I didn’t know where things were headed. My verbal work of trying to deescalate the conversation and direct him elsewhere finally paid off when some walk-in clients came into the building and seemed to derail him. He left after asking for either some work, a bus pass or money. Afterwards, I filed a police report with Crime Check, wishing I had never found myself in a situation deeming that a necessary precaution.

Such moments are extra nerve-wracking, especially in a news world of community college shootings, attempted pastor assaults, and the murder of missionaries.

Plenty of partisan debates argue about the roots and fruits of violence in American culture. One can post a study and someone else will post a counter-study. It’s a game of ping-pong between political parties and special interests, and, unfortunately, the average community members are often caught in the cross fire.

One place I looked for accurate information was the National Instituter of Justice/Office of Justice. Here, we find years of data that highlights many of the cold hard facts not spin-doctored for public persuasions. We also can find what has worked at reducing crime and violence over the long haul.

“More than 20 years of intervention programs…have shown that a single approach is not likely to work.” -NIJ

Gangs and Gun-Related Homicide

“Gun-related homicide is most prevalent among gangs and during the commission of felony crimes. In 1980, the percentage of homicides caused by firearms during arguments was about the same as from gang involvement (about 70 percent), but by 1993, nearly all gang-related homicides involved guns (95 percent), whereas the percentage of gun homicides related to arguments remained relatively constant. The percentage of gang-related homicides caused by guns fell slightly to 92 percent in 2008, but the percentage of homicides caused by firearms during the commission of a felony rose from about 60 percent to about 74 percent from 1980 to 2005.”


Who Is Most Affected by Gun Violence?

“People between the ages of 15 and 24 are most likely to be targeted by gun violence as opposed to other forms of violence. From 1976 to 2005, 77 percent of homicide victims ages 15-17 died from gun-related injuries. This age group was most at risk for gun violence during this time period. Teens and young adults are more likely than persons of other ages to be murdered with a gun. Most violent gun crime, especially homicide, occurs in cities and urban communities. Intimate partner violence can be fatal when a gun is involved — from 1990 to 2005, two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims were killed by guns. The overall number of firearm homicides among intimates has fallen considerably during the past 30 years, however.”

If one reads through the findings, he or she can see that gun violence is a complex issue that can be changed through effective sentencing, neighborhood community policing, intervention programs that focus on both the supply and demand side of guns.

As a faith-based organization, we are engaged in community development strategies. This movement champions education, mixed-income housing, life-betterment programs, and family support services and ministries. We also pursue individual life transformations that have also proven to be helpful in reshaping, reclaiming and restoring goodness, prosperity and hope to underprivileged, downtrodden neighborhoods. It is in these neighborhoods where a significant amount of our city’s crimes take place.

Our communities, especially struggling neighborhoods, need more than dialogue and debate that perpetually ignites in a circumstantial flash and then fades out until the next tragedy and media frenzy. Changing a violent culture begins in a changed heart and then extends to the family and community circles beyond.


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