By Gerry Monroe
HOUSTON– For the past three years the City of Houston has been besieged by gang violence. Lamar High School students welcomed the Mayor of Houston on last Tuesday, nearly two weeks after losing a classmate to gang violence. Mayor Sylvester Turner met with a student who wrote him a letter following Delindsey Mack’s murder. The mayor also met with student leaders at the school to listen to their concerns and ensure all HISD students that law enforcement is committed to keeping them safe.
Mack was gunned down outside the school on Nov. 13, in what police described as one of the latest killings in an ongoing gang war. But hold up! What about black schools? The same ones, that have been dealing with gang violence, since before the mayor started his term. For the past three years I personally watched schools and neighborhoods being torn apart by gang violence. I’ve also watched black children die at an alarming rate. Kids need to study entrepreneurship. Because owning a funeral home right now is better than owning a fortune 500 company.
Per the Houston Chronicle, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Police Chief Art Acevedo announced the city’s kick off of the 2018 ‘March on Crime’ campaign during a press conference last February at HPD headquarters. “The program is built upon the premise that no one group can’t do it alone,” Turner said. “Neighbors need to help neighbors, communities need to work with HPD, and in turn HPD needs to work with those in our community.”
Just last week after the Mack murder, Acevedo had to publicly admit Houston has a gang problem. And, now the white affluent community is screaming the house is on fire. News flash, the house is engulfed in flames! The city officials run the daytime, and the gang members run the night time. Houston is not safe. From 45 to Sims Bayou is one of the deadliest corridors in the country. But if you look at the HPD crime stats, it doesn’t reflect that. It has been over 10 murders in SE Houston in the last month. But the stats don’t reflect it. The question is why?
I’ve personally spoken on gang violence, for the past three years, countless numbers of times at City Council. And, each time it feels like no one listened to me. I’m not angry, I’m passionate! I apologize if I come off the wrong way. Mayor Turner don’t forget about 3rd Ward, 5th Ward, Greens Point, and Acres Homes. Acres Homes is gang ridden too. Not addressing the issue in the black community, but in the white community, is a slap in the face.
Governor Greg Abbott held a news conference last summer to announce a crackdown on Houston-area gang violence. However, Abbott did not include any Houston law enforcement officials in his announcement. Instead, the Governor was flanked by the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Abbott said he will deploy new resources to help Houston law enforcement eliminate gang violence. The perpetual increase of violent crimes by gangs in Houston has spurred Gov. Greg Abbott to send more state and federal resources to the city by providing a $500,000 grant to establish a new 24/7 tactical center. But where is it?
Here is My Plea
You have a Gun Violence Commission Mr. Mayor. You have a comprehensive plan. Kids are dying daily in SE Houston. Honestly, do you care? I believe you do. The only political figure that I know has tried to help is City Councilman Dwight Boykins. He’s been to the belly of the beast.
The crimes are starting to get more brazen. To execute a kid in broad daylight by Lamar High School shows me who really has the power. On top of that, our school system should be working with the City of Houston to solve this problem. HISD and surrounding school districts house thousands of certified killers on a daily basis. They know it! In order to solve gang problems, resources have to be allocated.
According to The Chronicle, a civil lawsuit that initially would have permanently banned 92 accused gang members from a court-ordered “safety zone” in southeast Houston was dropped by the Harris County Attorney and District Attorney’s Office. The decision came after settlement negotiations that resulted in proposals for programs to help gang members who wanted to “become law abiding citizens.
Now, Mayor Turner you promised to implement programs that create job-training and educational opportunities”. I’m not bitter, I just want it understood, it’s hard to keep going into those neighborhoods, putting your life on the line making promises you can’t keep.
Like Reginald Gordon, who just lost a nephew to gang violence. Remember those promises Mayor Turner. 1. Provide job opportunities for repeat offenders. 2. Job training. 3. Help getting GED’s. You want them to give up the street life, but yet not understand that they too have to feed their families.
So, unless this can be done you don’t have a shot in hell of slowing down gang violence. Does this have anything to do with the New Juvenile Detention Center being built on Chimney Rock? Instead of just building more jails, The City of Houston should seek help from academic professionals to analyze why so many low-level juvenile offenders fail to fulfill their probationary terms and end up behind bars.
Instead of detaining them, non-violent youth should be assigned mentors who offer coaching, encouragement, and support to help them avoid lapsing back into problematic behavior patterns. Rules like checking in with a probation officer, not skipping a day of school, and getting home by dark ought not to carry the serious consequence of a lock-up except in extreme circumstances.
Rehabilitation is more cost-effective and more likely to help teens achieve their dreams than punishment. Teenagers still need help growing up, and it falls on Harris County to act smart about it. And, most of these young people are gang- affiliated- and, they don’t come from River Oaks.
So, here is my cry to you. Visit the schools. Don’t let them know you are coming. Just show up. Drive through the neighborhoods at night with HPD. Go to active gang violence crime scenes. Look into the eyes of the parents, as they watch their children bodies lay lifeless for hours on end, until they are picked up.
Go home, sit in a dark room, and just think. What would I do if that was my child.? What would I expect from city-government? Nothing at the moment, should be more important than the saving of lives. Show the country that you will push back against street violence like the great Mayor you are. You won’t allow Houston to become the Next Chicago or New Orleans. I know you care.
In certain instances, I see your heart being worn on your shirt sleeve. Some feel in the black community that you have forgotten about them. Prove them wrong! You owe it to every mother and family that has lost their child to street violence. Enable your police department to go harder than they have ever gone on gang violence. Challenge the school system to put in a mentoring program to deal with gang violence.
Lastly, put funding behind the Scott Street initiative that was endorsed by your Gun Violence Commission. Without the resources, gang violence can never be addressed properly. Let’s work together to get these kids back in school. Back learning how to open their own businesses. Let’s get them some trades. You have the ability to push all the right buttons.
Present a comprehensive plan to Council and make it make sense. Then, once that is done, the real work can start. Your own Exe. Police Chief Troy Finner has buried two of his nephews due to gang violence. That’s hitting pretty close to home. Do it for Sir Romeo, the 4-year-old that has had 30 surgeries since being hit during a gang war fight. Show the country that Mayor Sylvester Turner has said Houston will not be gang ridden. Give them the blue print to help their cities. I personally voted for you. And I believe that you WILL GET IT DONE.
I love Houston, TX. We can’t fail in this mission. The longer we wait for a solution the more people will die. Watch and observe how the City of Houston will rally behind you while you clean this place up. Imagine how many families will feel less terrified when their child comes home late from the movies. Make this a city of hope, not a city of fear. Make this city the same one that you as a youth loved to represent. Make Houstonians proud to call you the first mayor in the country to really attack this demon. I’ll be the first at the polls casting my vote for you. And, I’ll never think twice about getting others to do the same. My mom always told me, your reputation shall be judged but one day your character shall be judged for a lifetime. Follow your heart and set the City of Houston free from gang violence once and for all.