For all spending on increased security for members of Congress, an equal allocation should be made for new programs that support neighborhoods affected by violence.
LAST weekend, a 16-year-old in Seattle was caught with a gun, telling police, sincerely, that he needed it for safety. Two weeks ago, a 14-year-old accomplice to several crimes was chastised in court for making poor life choices, never mind that his father was murdered in May. And last month, an immigrant family left behind years of hard work because it was safer to move back to Mexico than risk gang retaliation against their son.
These are just the kids who got caught up in the criminal-justice system. Countless others bear similar burdens but keep their heads down, afraid to stand out.
As one of King County’s juvenile prosecutors, I work daily with the impact of community violence and the vulnerability that comes with it. Victims, of course, feel it most acutely, but offenders are just as immersed in the environment of insecurity. Understanding this insecurity is fundamental to the story of almost every kid that comes before the court.
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At this point, it is unremarkable to note that kids from vulnerable communities tend to have worse outcomes in every aspect of life, from education to employment. What is remarkable is how rarely those of us in positions of power choose to acknowledge this common sense.
So now, in the wake of June’s tragic shooting at a congressional baseball practice, we find a moment where there is a connection between those with the most power in our society and those with the least.
After U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise was shot, members of Congress responded with bipartisan calls for increased security details. They talked of being “sitting ducks,” feeling vulnerable and said openly that the risk of violence affects their work.
So when taxpayers pay for Congress’ peace of mind, will Congress return the favor?
My suggestion is modest: For all spending on increased security for members of Congress, an equal allocation should be made for new programs that support neighborhoods affected by violence. Rely on local leaders, use data to evaluate pilot projects and pursue programs with demonstrated success.
This is an opportunity. How often do members of Congress viscerally experience the feelings that countless American kids live with as they walk to school, play with friends or picture their futures?
This is not a time to apathetically accept hypocrisy from Washington, D.C.; moments of true empathy from Congress are too rare. Call your congresspeople. Talk to local community leaders. Volunteer or donate to organizations supporting vulnerable communities in ways many of us take for granted.
Starting with Congress, it is time that we all acknowledge our shared duty to ensure that the right conditions exist for every community to succeed.