Shutting Out the World: Preventing Violence in Flint

By: Pete Hutchison, YES Program Director

The real frustration of the current rate of violence in Flint is that there are so many concerned people working to prevent it.  There are active neighborhood groups, collaborations amongst the faith community, a multitude of youth serving organizations meeting together and looking for solutions.  Yet with all of this we still can’t seem to get on top of it.  Unfortunately the violence isn’t occurring in the meeting rooms in Flint, nor is it necessarily happening from 9 – 5.  In order to truly make a difference in what is going on will require an effort by us all.  Unfortunately we have gotten to a place where we tolerate headlines proclaiming another death and write it off as just something else we can do nothing about.

It is easy in our current society to shut ourselves off from the outside world.  We begin to live our lives through our computers, ipads, smart phones and televisions.  We begin to lose feeling for others as we live life through the words of a newscaster.  We drive home into our garage then into the house and don’t even meet our neighbor.  We feel safe in this world, safe from harm, safe from hurt both physically and emotionally, the world can’t “get us.”   In this environment our streets become safe for whoever wants to walk down them and do whatever they want.  Everything from stealing cooper pipes out of vacant houses to murder.

Rich Harwood, coined the phrase, “stepping over the threshold.”  What he meant was stepping over the threshold of our door and entering into our community.  This is something that each and every one of us should be doing.  I’m not advocating putting ourselves in danger.  I realize this is not a movie where the heroes always win, but we can look out our front windows and watch what’s going on, then call the police when we see something that’s not right.  We can get to know our neighbors well enough to recognize a strange car or truck in their driveway, watch over their house when they are gone.  We can turn on our porch lights to help light up our streets, thus discouraging those who work only in the dark.  We can get some exercise and go for a walk even if just around the block.

Marc Zimmerman, Director of the MI-YVPC and Prevention Research Center of Michigan coined the phrase “Busy Streets”.  The image this creates is one where people are out and relating on a personal level, not just through media. It is with this type of community that we will begin to bring the violence under control.  We will show our children the importance of a peaceful way of life, one where we respect each other, one where we would never hurt one another.

The violence in Flint is being perpetrated by a small number of people; unfortunately we turn our city over to them each evening as we close ourselves up in our houses.  It’s time to regain a level of feeling for one another and work to alleviate the suffering endured by our fellow citizens.