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Youth violence provokes outrage, promises

October 7, 2009 3:34:16 PM PDT
Derrion Albert's death isn't the first case of youth violence to make national headlines. But it is the first time the White House has sent two members of the president's cabinet to work on ways to stop the problem.As the death of Derrion Albert winds its way through the news cycle, there is an unmistakable sense of deja vu that goes back at least 20 years.

Once again, the nation is outraged over the death of a Chicago child and once again, the politicians promise to do something about it.

They are names and young faces from Chicago's violent past: Ben Wilson, Dantrell Davis, Girl X, Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, Eric Morse and others who deaths and injuries made national headlines. But outrage over those cases does not compare to the shockwave caused by the death of Derrion Albert that brought the U.S. attorney general and the education secretary to the city.

"What's different and actually heartbreaking is that it takes capturing the death on video to awake the country," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

What is seen on the cell phone video first aired by WFLD has put the American president's hometown in the worst possible light.

"It's a sad commentary, what's happened in our community," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.

The Chicago City Council's longest-serving African-Amercan alderman blames the loss of parenting skills in black households and says there's nothing lawmakers at any level can do about it.

"I can't legislate morality. Can't do that. We don't have the wherewithal to legislate morality," said Smith.

"We've got to get back to some of the old time things that, you know, raised the success of people you see here and are capable of raising successful young people today," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder says the feds will spend $24 million nationwide for programs to prevent youth violence and Secretary Duncan says the feds will make another half million dollars available to Fenger High School where Derrion Albert attended.

Retired Chicago Bear Otis Wilson, who runs a youth program for the city park district, was hoping there'd be more money on the table.

"Twenty-four million dollars for the whole country...that's just a drop in the bucket," said Wilson.

Mayor Daley agreed with Holder and Duncan that money is not the key to solving the city's decades-old youth violence problem. He wants residents to intervene at homes where children most vulnerable to becoming violence victims or perpetrators are at risk.

"That means having, yes, community people knocking on doors and going into the homes and making sure that those children are all protected," said Daley.

The mayor is a longtime proponent of a twelve month school year with longer school days for students. He says those changes not only would make kids safer but also would help them learn. That solution would certainly cost money, many billions of dollars a year if implemented around the country.


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