This past year my brother-in law began organizing neighbors on my block to form a block club in response to the increasing violence we were experiencing on our streets. We have met the first Friday of every month at the home of some good friends. Neighbors have come, many fearfully, to meet with our Senior Lead Officer from the LAPD, to discuss problems and solutions.
Specifically, we have focused on a group of young men, some of whom are or have been involved in our youth programming, who are carrying weapons, running drugs, and stealing cars. This has been heartbreaking for many of us. As I shared with my brother while in Seattle, I sometimes feel schizophrenic: in one meeting I am praying for these boys and for their salvation and helping build a youth ministry that can minister to them; in another meeting I am working with the cops and my neighbors to see justice done on my streets, knowing that this most surely will come at the cost of probable arrests of these same young men.
As I live and pray here, it is sometimes hard to know the face of the enemy we are fighting. It is the drug dealers who entice, it is the schools that fail, it is the gangs that rule…
This week I ran into some of our neighbor girls at the park. I asked them how their brother was doing (he is one of the “crew”) and they told me he was in jail. It turns out that the single mother of two young children who just moved into their building has been buying liquor for and drinking with these boys. A few weeks ago someone called the cops on this lady and when the cops confronted her, the girls’ brother became belligerent and aggressive toward the officers and that is what landed him back in jail. He is 14.
We had a strategy for the gangs and the drug dealers. We didn’t have a plan for a beer-buying mom.