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A message to criminals from a grieving mother



Published: Tue, August 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



It would be easy for Darlene Edwards to barricade herself in her Youngstown home and ignore the blood flowing in the streets of the city from all the homicides. After all, Edwards is a victim of the crime epidemic that has gripped Youngstown: She recently lost her 18-year-old son.

Deandre Edwards was fatally shot June 29 on Grandview Avenue. And if that loss wasn't painful enough, she has to live with the anxiety of her nephew, Jamal Edwards, also being taken away from the family. He is accused of shooting at police while involved in an incident that officers say was in retaliation for his cousin's death.

But don't expect the grieving mother to make excuses for Jamal Edwards.

"Right now I have no mercy for my nephew," she said in an interview Saturday with The Vindicator.

If only other Youngstown residents who have lost loved ones in the city's ever-growing crime wave and individuals in positions of power in government would have the courage to speak out the way Edwards did Saturday. On Aug. 24, Youngstown recorded its 25th killing, compared with 15 at the same time last year.

Darlene Edwards was supposed to participate in the second community prayer walk, but was ill. However, she was very much a part of the first one, on Aug. 6 on the East Side, held in honor of her son, Deandre. And she plans to join Patti Billet and other organizers in future prayer walks.

"That woman has gone through so much, and do you know what [she] is worried about? She's worried about the other kids in the city," Billet said of Edwards during the Saturday walk. The 10 participants made their way through parts of the South Side, including around the Krakusy Hall parking lot. That's where 18-year-old Jermaine Reynolds was shot and killed on July 17.

We don't know if such community activism is an effective way to fight crime, given that the criminals obviously have no conscience and are devoid of a sense of community. But even if all that Billet and other caring individuals accomplish is a headline in the newspaper and coverage on radio and television, it's progress. Why? Because politicians, from the mayor on down, do worry about the streets of the city being clogged with law-abiding residents demanding an end to the crime wave.

And make no mistake about it: So long as the mindless killings continue, people will add their voices to those of Billet, Edwards and others.

Impassioned plea

Indeed, last week members of city council met with the judges of the Youngstown Municipal Court and heard an impassioned appeal from Judge Elizabeth Kobly to stop the release of convicted felons from the Mahoning County Criminal Justice Center. A federal court order restricting the number of inmates Sheriff Randall Wellington can house in the jail has resulted in a large number of criminals returning to the streets.

At least one lawmaker, Artis Gillam, D-1st, took to heart what the judges said. Gillam pledged to work with his colleagues on council and with the administration to ensure that individuals who should be incarcerated are, in fact, behind bars.

As we said in a recent editorial, if there is no room in the county jail, Mayor George M. McKelvey and members of council should explore using the private prison in Youngstown and jails in surrounding counties to house these dregs.

We also suggested that the city consider borrowing money to pay for such incarceration if need be because addressing the crime epidemic in the city is a greater priority than the completion of the $45 million convocation center. McKelvey has said the city is prepared to borrow upto $12 million to ensure that the facility is ready for a grand opening this fall.

We applaud Billet and other organizers of the prayer walk for their commitment to the city, and praise Darlene Edwards for the strong message she delivered to Youngstown's criminals when she said of her nephew, "I have no mercy" for him.




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