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Will store closings end crime in Y’town?

Published: Sun, May 10, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

By Bertram de Souza

Let’s get something straight: The owners of the neighborhood markets in the city of Youngstown, many of them naturalized American citizens from the Middle East, did not bring into the world the babies who grew up to become young punks and ultimately drug dealers, gang bangers and society’s misfits.

To suggest, as some city government officials, community leaders and residents are now doing, that closing these stores will affect the crime wave is to ignore the reality that is Youngstown: The community is a breeding ground for criminals because there is little or no responsible adult supervision in many inner city homes. It is not about babies being born out of wedlock; it is about the absence of two parents — or one parent who isn’t a child herself — and the lack of a loving, caring, guiding environment.

Mahoning County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick sees first-hand the effects of dysfunctional households. Judge Dellick tells the story of a young person who is a student in a special school operated by the court who would rather spend the night in juvenile hall than go home.

The absence of a proper home life has consequences — as can be seen in Youngstown’s crime statistics.

To blame the owners of neighborhood markets for the gunfights that occur outside their stores in broad daylight, or the drug deals that take place, or the crack houses that dot many residential areas is to give the destroyers of the community a pass — or, at least, a pardon.

Both types

Are there store owners who fail to keep their premises clean, who don’t always sell quality products and who are too friendly with the wrong types of individuals? Yes, there are. Just as there are store owners who take pride in their businesses, sell quality products at reasonable prices, do favors for regular customers who are in dire straits and hand out candy to children who are pleasant and well-behaved.

Thus the question: Will Youngstown suddenly become crime-free if all the neighborhood markets closed?

Of course not.

That’s because the next generation of drug dealers, gang bangers and society’s misfits are already on the streets.

They are the young punks — boys and girls — who swarm the roadways, forcing vehicular traffic to stop. They are the illiterates who have no regard for private property and brazenly toss their empty paper cups and empty fast-food bags on the sidewalks and the front lawns of residents who spend hours trying to keep the old, deteriorating city from becoming an eyesore.

They are the students — the word used loosely — who have no qualms about defacing public property with graffiti that would make a grown man blush.

They are the criminals-in-training — unless something is done quickly to change the way they think, behave and live.

So when city officials, community leaders and residents say, “We’re fed up!” in reference to the neighborhood markets, those who work in the private sector, pay the exorbitantly high income tax (80 percent of city government’s operating budget goes for salaries and benefits for the public trough feeders), own property and pay the exorbitantly high property tax (including 9.5 mills for the failing school system), are also fed up with their lives being disrupted by scofflaws — young and old.

Black community

And here’s an issue no one wants to publicly discuss, but a great many people (if they are honest) at least think about: Many of the neighborhood markets are in the predominantly black areas of the city.

These markets cater to residents who have no means of transportation to get to the larger grocery stores.

So, if the markets are forced to shut down, where will the residents shop?

It is no accident that most of the owners are foreign-born. They put in 12-hour-plus days and are on the job 365 days a year.

If city officials have a waiting list of home-grown residents willing to run the neighborhood markets and do what it takes to keep the doors open, then they should not hesitate to get rid of the current owners.

It’s a safe bet there isn’t such a list.

Selling drugs on the street corner, breaking and entering homes and businesses and snatching some defenseless woman’s purse is so much easier.

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