The Mayo administration’s response to the growing crime problem in our community is a combination of denial and band-aids, both of which are a case of too little too late.
Last week, the mayor introduced Jason Stewart as the police department’s youth coordinator. Stewart is well known and will bring energy to focus on the young adult crime problem in our city.
Stewart is well qualified for the post, a ULM graduate and a former youth diversion officer for the city among other credits.
He presented a short list of intended projects and programs that included teaching youth about goal setting, responsibility, financial management, and other esteem building ideas.
As Stewart spoke, standing over his shoulder was Larry “Flip” Wilson, the director of the city’s O.K. Program which works with a group of youth with the same agenda Stewart articulated.
Both programs are financially anemic. The city promotes the O.K. program as a youth crime diversion program but requires the program to raise its own funds.
Wilson is assigned to the program but he also has to work regular duty as well with no extra help or pay.
Stewart will be paid $47,000 for the post but he won’t have a staff or a budget to work with.
The city’s unwillingness to fully fund any of its youth crime initiatives speaks volumes about its full commitment to address the crime problem. It puts resource officers in schools, but the school district foots the entire bill. It’s using a special youth snitch app that it downloaded free. DARE is funded by grants. The city itself contributes very little to the violent crime problem.
The second item of concern is the city’s denial that there is a crime problem in Monroe. Last week the mayor repeated a claim that crime in Monroe is significantly lower including youth-related crime.
The city is obviously living an alternate reality if it believes it’s own propaganda that crime is down by 44 percent.
When this paper heard that announcement, in February, we made a Freedom of Information request for a listing of all the crimes reported, by name, date, and charge. We made that request in February and have not received the information. That prompted us to lawyer up to force the city to reveal the real information.
The third problem is that the city’s crime focus will target students. While some of the suspects behind the shootings and murders are students, the overwhelming majority of suspects in Monroe’s violent crimes involve youth who have either dropped out of school or outside of the scope of the school system.
The city’s approach could be considered proactive if it was a fully funded program aimed at preventing crime and addressing adult crimes as well. Without funding, it is a toothless tiger.
The Mayor said he rejected appeals from the public to initiate a comprehensive youth program involving all of the city’s public and private youth initiatives acting as one. He said that would require too much.
He rejected the solution that would have worked, especially with a well-funded youth diversion office to make it happen.
It was a nice way of saying the city would continue doing what it’s been doing, with the exception of Stewart’s position to coordinate it all.
While the mayor lives in his alternative reality that violent crime is declining, the crimes continue unabated. This week a stop the violence event in a city park was interrupted by gunshots.
Despite the Mayor’s denial of the crime problem, the violence at Saturday’s anti-violence rally speaks for itself. It will take more than band-aids to address the crime problem in our real world.