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Published: Saturday, 9/29/2012

The community's problem

Anyone who consumes Toledo media reports is getting a steady diet of violence, including almost daily accounts of shootings, fatal and nonfatal. Most of Toledo's 22 homicide victims this year were African-American.

That's not unusual; in fact, it's the norm in urban areas around the country. But it's unacceptable and a clarion call to community action.

Violence in Toledo won't lessen without a fully engaged community, and a police department that works hand in hand with it. Police officers can't solve cases without people in neighborhoods who trust them and give them information.

Reducing violence will take more than enforcement actions that occur after the fact or even restricting the shamefully easy access that people have to high-powered assault rifles and other weapons.

When young people without hope become disconnected from the norms, values, and opportunities of mainstream society, a culture of nihilism and violence often fills the gap. Any plan to reduce violence must include providing young people with mentors, constructive things to do, and opportunities that engender hope.

People who have been in trouble themselves can play important roles. In Detroit, a youth-deterrence program run by state inmates who talk to troubled teenagers inside a prison has proved highly effective.

Other cities -- notably Boston, Baltimore, and San Jose -- have curbed violence by improving police-community relations, focusing enforcement actions on the most violent offenders, and giving opportunities and guidance to those who are willing to change.

Violence and crime are not, like the weather, uncontrollable. Law enforcement, working with the community, can make a real difference. It's a lesson Toledo must learn on a large scale, before the violence on its streets escalates further.

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