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Y’town must take back streets



Published: Sun, October 3, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


So long as we keep using words such as “random,” “senseless,” “unfortunate” and even “mistaken identity” to describe the killings and other acts of violence in Youngstown, we will never take the action necessary to deal with the crime epidemic.

Youngstown is in a state of war that has been declared by the gangbangers and other dregs of society, and the city is losing. If there was any doubt as to the power of the enemy, the cache of weapons and other instruments of war found in the most recent murder investigation should put things in perspective.

Those who would do us harm are well armed and are willing to kill at the blink of an eye. Not convinced? Here’s a challenge: Drive around the lower South Side and if you see a car with several punks in it blocking your way, honk your horn and see what happens. (You probably won’t see what happens.)

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when certain neighborhoods in Youngstown were considered safe. Not any more. West Side and upper North Side residents are experiencing the same crime epidemic that has plagued the South and East sides for so long.

War has been launched on the city — and the time has come to fight back.

How? Civil libertarians may want to skip the next paragraph.

Mayor Jay Williams and city council should declare a state of emergency, impose a curfew and then go after the gangbangers with guns drawn. Worrying about their civil rights has brought nothing but death and despair to the law-abiding residents — to repeat, residents — of Youngstown.

Theoretical discourse

Suburbanites in the comfort of their safe neighborhoods have the luxury of theoretical discourse about crime and punishment. The people who live in the war zone don’t.

The first call to this writer on Monday in the aftermath of the murder of 74-year-old Thomas J. Repchic was from an elderly resident of the South Side.

She was distraught over the killing, angry with Police Chief Jimmy Hughes and afraid. She wanted to attend a community meeting that night at Trinity United Methodist Church but said she was too scared to go.

Repchic’s murder is being called a case of “mistaken identity” by the police, rather than the “brutal slaying of an innocent man.”

The shooters weren’t on a joy ride when they had a sudden urge to open fire on Repchic’s car — his wife, Jacqueline, was injured. They were looking for a rival gang leader. Their intent wasn’t to sit down with the gangster and discuss their problems over a cup of coffee.

To illustrate the extent of the lawlessness, consider this: There was an attempted burglary at the Repchics’ house on the South Side on the day of the shooting.

What would the state emergency entail? Extraordinary police powers, the installation of surveillance cameras on streets throughout the city and the targeting of thugs who drive around in automobiles worth more than many houses in the city.

There’s an easy way to target them: Enforce the state’s seat belt law to the fullest. Gangbangers do not wear seat belts because they want to be able to scramble out of their cars when they are under fire.

And, the state of emergency would have to include hanging judges. The three judges of the municipal court would treat every crime committed with a gun as a major offense.

The word should go out that a burglary committed with a weapon will result in a very long prison sentence — or hands being cut off.

Rape will result in dismemberment.

And murder — public hanging.

To be sure, none of those extreme measures for dealing with Youngstown’s crime problem will be used, but it certainly feels good to indulge in such musings.

Losing battle

In war, only the strong survive. The city of Youngstown has tried to fight back with caution — and is losing.

It’s time to bring out the big guns.

While all the law enforcement initiatives over the past several years have had some effect, the recent murders of Repchic, Realtor Vivian Martin and elderly churchgoer Angeline Fimognari demonstrate that criminals aren’t afraid of operating in Youngstown.

Cities that were once under siege and are now comparatively crime-free have found ways of ridding themselves of the dregs of society.


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