After all the talk by officials about a zero-tolerance approach to crime in the city of Youngstown, residents are left to wonder whether the strategy is adequate in light of 3-month-old Jiyen C. Dent Jr.'s death. Jiyen was the victim of a drive-by shooting. The baby was in a swing in a living of his parent's house on the East Side when 12 rounds from an assault rifle were fired into the Rutledge Drive residence. He died from a bullet wound to the head.
The word senseless doesn't begin to describe this crime. Babies shouldn't fall victim to gang violence, but Jiyen wasn't the first and probably won't be last in the city of Youngstown. That's because gang members place no value on life -- their own or anybody else's.
But what this killing has done is aroused the passions of law-abiding citizens who are unwilling to remain silent. Thus last week, at a meeting of East Side residents, there were words of anger and demands for action by city government. Bottom line: Youngstown residents, who are paying the highest income tax rate of any municipality in Ohio, want more police on the streets.
However, stepped up patrols alone won't end the gang violence, much of which is related to the illegal drug trade and turf battles.
What is needed is a concerted effort by law enforcement, the courts, the mayor and city council to make it impossible for the gangs to exist in Youngstown.
In July 2000, we called for a summit meeting on crime after a Vindicator investigative story revealed that Mayor George M. McKelvey's zero-tolerance strategy was in danger of unraveling because two municipal judge were not sold on the idea that time behind bars is necessarily a deterrent.
We renew our call for such a get-together of all individuals who have anything to do with the safety, health and welfare of the citizenry.
Whether Jiyen would be alive today had one of the accused, John E. Drummond Jr., been under electronically monitored house arrest, as he was supposed to have been, is a question that may never be answered. However, it is clear that when Drummond was sentenced March 19 by Judge Elizabeth Kobly in municipal court to 90 days house arrest on his conviction of driving under suspension, he had a drug case pending before Judge Maureen Cronin of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
He had pleaded guilty in February to one count of cocaine trafficking and had been free on bond while a pre-sentence background check was being done.
Should that case have sent up a red flag? That's the kind of question that needs to be discussed fully by all parties.
Drummond and Wayne P. Gilliam have pleaded innocent in common pleas court to multiple counts of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and felonious assault, and single counts of firing a weapon into a home, Drummond also is charged with illegal possession of a firearm.
Do judges of the municipal court clearly understand what the mayor and his police chief, Robert Bush, mean when they talk about zero tolerance? Has city council adequately funded law enforcement efforts to break up the gangs and disrupt the drug trade?
It's time for some serious discussion.
Jiyen C. Dent Jr, 3 months old, wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was at home. His death demands answers.