A 16-year-old Toledoan was gunned down last week, an apparently unintended victim of senseless gunplay. His body was found in the street around 3 a.m. July 24, on the edge of the Old West End.
Almost immediately, the questions began on social media and Web sites: Why was Tyler McIntoush out at such an hour? Where were his parents?
Idle speculation aside, the reality is that his life was cut short during a rash of summer violence in Toledo that has led to marches, vigils, and news conferences by elected officials.
If there were easy ways to prevent shootings, gang-related or otherwise, our city would have embraced them by now. Times are troubled when during a “2 Mile March and Rally 2 Stop Gang Violence” this week, gang members flashed hand signs at an intersection along the route. Such cynicism and disrespect might suggest that any remaining sense of community is quickly fading.
But Toledo can rise up. In a way, those who threw the signs may be victims too — of circumstances such as absent fathers, drug-addicted mothers, poverty, youth unemployment, violent video games, or gangster rap.
They also are often victims of their own poor decision-making. They shouldn’t be let off the hook for making foolish choices, but they need guidance.
That will require intervention beyond law enforcement. There must be a variety of sustained efforts: job creation, anger-management counseling, youth mentoring, family-support resources, and academic, social, creative, and recreational outlets.
Toledo must convince its young people that using guns to settle petty scores is wrong. We have to teach a regard for human lives.
Violent crime has fallen in Toledo in the past two years, but shootings and homicides continue. A culture of violence plays out in Toledo, just as it does in Detroit and Chicago and Los Angeles.
Most urban areas are grappling with solutions, but the first step is an engaged community that wants to help. The oft-stated assertion that “at least we aren’t Detroit” is worthless.
City government needs to increase funding for programs that offer late-night activities and give young people a place to gather. The city must partner with churches and social groups that have been successful at real, down-and-dirty youth interaction.
Young people who are out shooting likely couldn’t care less about a politician’s photo op — or a newspaper editorial. But some in-your-face mentoring might do the trick. It beats wringing our hands and wondering why young people turn to gangs for a sense of acceptance, family, and belonging.
There have been no arrests in Mr. McIntoush’s fatal shooting; police have not said whether it was gang-related. But regardless of the circumstances, his death can and should become a community rallying point.
Let’s all do our part. Let’s mentor young people in our neighborhoods, watch out for them, talk to them about their concerns. Offer to pay them to cut the grass or clean up the block. Challenge them to pick up a book instead of a video game.
It’s a start. Every little bit adds up.
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