St. Louis on the Air
9:08 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Youth Violence in East St. Louis, Mayor Parks: We Cannot Tolerate It

Less than one week ago East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks announced a list of new measures in an attempt to curb recent violence in the city.  Among the new rules is a curfew for all youth after 10:00 p.m.  A ban from wearing royal blue or bright red clothing was also in effect for all men though the Mayor has since backed down.

Host Don Marsh talks with multiple guests about the new measures which stem from a deadly weekend in which an 18 year old man was stabbed to death and three young men died after being shot in the parking lot of a local club.

Show Highlights

Safety

East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks pointed to numerous issues that need to be addressed in the city including safety.  “It’s our job to make sure to make sure that our young people have a future that can be great,” said Parks.  “We understand that right now it’s a very dangerous time in parts of East St. Louis.”

Mayor Parks drew some criticism for implementing policies which border on personal rights.  Parks acknowledged the concern, though he said, “We’ve got to do these things in order to upgrade the security of the community.”  Further, “There are people who are walking right now with guns under long white t-shirts, guns inside hoodies, knives inside hoodies. It is a situation that we cannot tolerate, even for a minute.”

Curfew

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said recent crime prevention efforts have focused on the places in which crimes take place and the new strategy, which simply enforces laws already on the books, is about getting at the wrong time.  “Obviously these are multigenerational problems and the challenges will take a long time for us to address.  These things are going to keep occurring if we don’t have some long-term thinking,” said Kelly.

Beth Huebner, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, said curfews can work though they need to be part of a larger strategy.  “I think what the whole community is doing is moving in the right direction.  It needs to be very intense and sustained,” said Huebner.

Community Programs

Sylvester ‘Sunshine’ Lee, who works as the male involvement coordinator at the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House in East St. Louis, said “We have to come up with programs and outlets for children to be a part of, that’s why we’re trying to develop more centers in the city of East St. Louis so that they can have some type of outlet to go and vent, talk and plan.  So when we’re talking about loitering, where can they go, where can they be?”

Image and Poverty Problems

Brendan Kelly said, “The most important thing that has to be done is to overcome the huge psychological barrier that East St. Louis is perpetually unsafe.”

In agreement, Mayor Parks said, “East St. Louis has had an image of toughness and corruption.  It goes back prior to the 1917 race riots.”  “You’ve got to make sure that people have it in their heads that this city is safe.  When you get that in people’s minds, growth and prosperity come along with it.  We don’t have the luxury of only working on safeness.  We have to work on positive economic development.  Poverty is intense, it is deep, and it is wide and we’ve got to address that issue in addition to the criminal justice aspects,” said Parks.

Complete audio of the show

Guests:

Alvin Parks, Jr., Mayor of East St. Louis, Illinois

Brendan Kelly, St. Clair County State’s Attorney

Sylvester ‘Sunshine’ Lee, Male Involvement Coordinator at the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House in East St. Louis

Beth Huebner, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri – St. Louis

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