Gang wars: Kids with guns in the streets

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Julian High student Blair Holt was a citizen casualty in a gang war. His alleged shooter, some say, was a victim too. Michael Pace, 16, has been described as a mixed up kid "with a short temper and a bad attitude" who grew up in poverty without a father and with easy access to "blunts" and guns that led him to his breaking point. Same goes for 15-year-old Kevin Jones, who police say gave Pace the gun to do the shooting.
People concerned about the escalating violence all have the same question: What can we do to stop it?
Do you have any ideas on how to answer that question? Use this space to vent your feelings on this tragedy, and the state of the neighborhoods around this South Side war zone.

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There are positives to look at here.

It is a very good thing that the young man who (allegedly) fired the shots has decided to turn himself in. If he'd decided to go into hiding, it would have only added to the pain suffered by his family and the family of the victim. The young students of Julian also showed great courage, forethought and determination in walking out of school the following day.

I disagree with Mary Mitchell's latest column though. This is not a war between blacks. What it boils down to is that these children had access to guns. A gun is a source of immense power; having a gun comes with an added burden of responsibility. This young man refused to act responsibly and instead decided to use the gun to settle an old feud over nothing. He not only let himself down, but he also let his friend down, because he used his friend to get the gun. They will most likely receive the same amount of jail time. This was a case of an immature person being given acces to great amounts of power.

Mr. Konkol, thank you but no thanks! Do not take it personal, it has nothing to do with your ethnic background. Black people have to solve their own problems and NOT with EVERYONE able to come into the room. We have some issues that need addressing and some politicos, religions, educators, sociologist, psychologist, behaviorists, economists, financiers, etc. will not be able to come into this room.

Mr. Jenkins, Ms Mitchell means well but we must look inward.
In a nutshell, if a boat, ship or tanker is rudderless, it will run aground and cause GREAT damage. I will leave it at that because I think most if not all will understand what this means.

The reactions of the neighborhod residents refutes the notion of their community being a "rudderless boat". These children stood up and clearly declared that the actions that were taken were wrong and should not have happened. In any situation such as this it is vitally important that the people stand up and state their values.

Will gun crime disappear overnight? No. But the people of that community have done the right thing.

grew up in poverty without a father and with easy access to "blunts" and guns that led him to his breaking point

Guns have been around forever, "blunts" have too though they used to be called "joints". They did not lead to this nor will removing them cure this.

The problem is not black-on-black crime, there is Hispanic-on-Hispanic crime as well in the world of gang warfare and in the good old days of the Cosa Nostra, there was white-on-white crime. What these elements have always shared is living in neighborhoods where there is no opportunity. What these kids share is a feeling of hopelessness, powerlessness and a lack of belief that they have a future.

I would guess what prevents many people from committing crime is that they may spoil their "future" with a criminal record or too many traffic tickets, etc. But if you believe you have no future or that you're in a tunnel and the light at the end of it is a train, what stops you from doing anything?

It's like the old saying, when you ain't got nothing you got nothing to lose.

If you live in a neighborhood where you can get a police record just for walking down the street, what incentive do you have to do anything the right way (particularly areas where corrupt police officers have been identified).

Look at Mary's column about the two kids on the playground who were arrested because the dad who poked his nose in a kid fight was a cop. These kids are not only traumatized now, but they have an arrest record. When they walk down the street as they get in their teens, or drive a car, if the police stop them for curfew or anything else and run their names, these charges will come up. It will instantly be a signal to the police officer to be wary. Juvenile records don't get sealed until you're 21 and then only if you ask, and not from law enforcement.

In a depressed neighborhood, this type of record is worse to have than in an upscale neighborhood. Nowhere, on the record the police pull up, will it tell the story that some cop stuck his nose in a little kid fight instead of teaching his own kid to stand up for himself. For this, two decent kids get terrorized. They aren't the only ones, there are stories like this all over the city everyday and many of these kids, after getting hasselled for nothing all the time, end up like the young man who shot Holt.

If you've been to the south side or west side lately, you'll realize that you have areas saturated by teenagers with nothing to do, no jobs to be gotten unless they are miles and several buses from their houses, no youth programs for preteens and teenagers, etc.

Whenever you have teenagers, white, black, rich or poor, with a lot of time on their hands, they will find something to do, and it will typically not be volunteer work.

If you want to solve this problem, get these kids jobs, bring economic development to these areas, engage them and pay them a wage. No one wakes up and decides that this is the career career of choice, they just figure they have no future so what have they got to lose?

Until we remove the barriers acting like this gang violence only happens to Blacks, the problems will continue. We are loosing just as many Hispanics to senseless crimes. Lives are being cut short because we have allowed the gangs to take over our streets. Lets remove the dividers and see this as a City problem. My heart breaks thinking what Holt's mom must be feeling, but it also breaks for Chris Pineda's mom. She too lost a son, not involved in gangs, to the streets of Chicago. Let's try and find a resolution and though putting pressure on the guns war is not the solution. Chris was beat to death! Let's pull together to find solutions for teaching our children the value of LIFE! It is not a black or a white thing. It is about respecting human life!

People always want to use growing up without a father as an excuse for bad behavior, and that's bull. There are sooo many upstanding and succesful individuals who have made it just fine without a father in the home! But on another note, I am a former alumn of Percy L. Julian High (class of 1988). I drove by there this morning on my way into the office, and there is nothing on the markee regarding Blair Holt. Not an "we'll miss you", no visitation/funeral information, NOTHING!!! Dr. Harris should be ashamed of himself. How about showing a bit more support for the surviving students. This has to be extremely difficult for them to deal with!!! I'm almost ashamed to say I graduated from there!!!

The reactions of the neighborhod residents refutes the notion of their community being a "rudderless boat".

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2007 03:30 PM

This partial piece of the above post was given as a retort about the comparison I made about Black people solving their own problems. I am one of the people that it affects daily. When one decides to retort to another's opinion (which we all have one), it would be mature not to hide under the "pseudonym" Anonymous. I have yet to meet someone with the name. Whether male\female, you are not the type I want in the room when tough talk concerns addressing Black people's daily lives.

I do not want my/others children to stand up for adult issues, I want them to be children as long as possible. I want them going to school without metal detectors. That in itself is not feasible under any circumstances. To play outside, go to the parks, or any where without fear of being shot/beatdown.

The cold world will mature them rapidly when entering it beyond the school yard.

Also, just because I mentioned the close room does not mean I will be invited in as well. But I do know everyone cannot come in because of the mask they wear.

You know what??? All these excuses are fruitless excuses and nothing else. I also grew up in dire poverty down South in Little rock, home of some of the cruelest and most brutal gangs in America. I also dont have a father to guide me but I also know right from wrong. I also know that in order to get out of poverty you have to make the right decesions. criminals are criminals regardless of their age. Lets put this in perspective. A boy tracks down a gun, figures out when another boy he does not like will be on the bus, pays his bus fair, and then open fires on a bus full of people and shoots up everyone but his intended target. And now we are supposed to feel sorry for him and blame society, schools, blunts, and every other thing we can think of instead of putting the blame on the person it belongs two..... The Shooter!!!! reality check folks, walking out of school means nothing more than missing another day of being educated. I get the message, and its touching but these kids need to be where its safe and thats school, not out on the streets protesting a tragedy. I am sick of all this blame going on when we as a society should be blaming the criminals and yes... Thats exactly what these two boys are and thats what they will be for the rest of their life. And Parents.... I am a parent as well, we are proud residents of Chicagos west side and if your old enough to have kids, then grow up and raise them so they know and are educated on what crime is regardless of how small it may seem. We all want this killing and Gang war to end but the reality is it wont. However not coddling these punks who commit the crime is not a way to get a peacful and anti violent message across. People see crimes every days down every neighborhood but how often is it reported??? We use excuses like "I dont want to get involved or I am scared they will come after me..." And you really want to make a statement that you want crime off the streets by doing that??? I see a crime I report it and if the punks want to threated or try to intimidate me??? I say come get some... I grew up harrassed by real gangsters The KKK and if I can survive them I promise you you punks wont get to me either. Be Strong people and report the crimes you see.

My name is Ricardo Hernandez and I am an Ex-Ceasefire worker now volunteering my time as a peace activist on the Southwest side. First, as a young child, then as a young man, I spent a total of 10 1/2 years in prison institutions for gang activities ranging from Unlawful Use of a Weapon to several counts of Attempted Murder. Thirty seven years later, I have acquired several certifications, one college degree, and hope for a second degree in the near future. In 2005, I was chosen to work for the now terminated Ceasefire program. While working for the program, I received the most valuable education I could ever imagine. In those two years, I've come to the conclusion, that the gangstas we so much loath, are not gangstas at all, but a lost generation of children with no sense of belonging or ownership. We have to admit, with out barriers of social correctness, that our institutions have failed our children. Many of our high schools are unfit for learning due to overcrowding. Our prison system population continues to rise, despite living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Jobs have gone over seas and they aren't returning. We have a generation of young people distrustful of the police and care little about plugging into the political system.
The shootings on the street are just a reflection of the past times we create for our youth. Violent movies, violent video games, and a lack of fruitful social activities, lead underdeveloped minds, to making illogical decisions about a world full of confusing dilemmas.
With that, I challenge every able bodied man in the hood to give some of his time to ball playing, sharing of job skills, and listening. We can't expect the governor to understand our problems and in reality it is up to us to change the direction of our states future by voting in the next election. We should take part in community activities with out pay.
It's hard to shake the memories that have been ingrained into my heart, by the senseless crime scenes. For two years, I witnessed sadness so profound, that the birds in mid day would not chirp.
As a parent, my heart goes out to all the mothers and fathers dealing with the this madness. I pray for a better future...

Good grief! A year has passed, since Douglas has said " thanks!". In this year, how has the African American community solved the issue of gang violence? I see African American preachers all over Daley and Obama. I see Obama running for president, instead of being US Senator. I see people running scared on tv, but I don't see the people that promised solutions one year ago. :(

Looks like it's time initiate the " S.H.O.O.T T.O K.I.L.L " orders on gangs.... nothing else works.

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Mark Konkol

Mark Konkol covers city neighborhoods for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can e-mail him or call (312) 321-2146.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Konkol published on May 15, 2007 9:24 AM.

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