By John Guevara
Rockford wasted no time: our first homicide of 2017 has come and gone. It’s left us shaking our heads – casting about for solutions. For some, the answer is more cops. For others the answer is us. And for quite a few the answer is leave.
For years I have advocated for more Winnebago County Sheriff’s deputies and City of Rockford police officers. In the long run, deputies cost taxpayers less money, meaning more boots on the ground for less pocketbook pain. But as others have pointed out today’s violence is different even from as recently as two years ago.
In the summer of 2014, Rockford suffered a spate of gang-related shootings. As Chairman of the Winnebago County Board’s Public Safety Committee, I had fought to fund the former Sheriff’s Gang Task Force. The task force put an end to the operations of two major area gangs and violence abated.
The current climate is different. Yes, there are still gang related shootings. But there is also something else, something new. There is a rash of shootings that seem driven only by momentary malice.
I haven’t been in many fights. I can handle myself, but I was taught to do right and violence is rarely, if ever, right. I am a Second Amendment advocate and I have a FOID card. Not once have I been so angry that I felt I should take a gun and shoot someone. The thought is abominable to me. I believe it is at least foreign to most of us. I am concerned that the Fridays of Ice Cube’s Craig giving his dad the gun and choosing to stand up to Devo with his fists alone are coming to an end. More police can’t change that.
It’s easy to say that we are the answer to the violence; it’s hard to agree how. I’m sure we will hear plenty of solutions from area governments, candidates for mayor, Transform Rockford, the various media outlets – some of which will cost more taxpayer dollars. They may even be worth it. The challenge for all of us is to get involved.
What do you mean get involved? There are moments when believing what is right isn’t enough. We need to do what is right. Is there a parent who you believe isn’t raising their child well? Say something. Don’t be mean about it. Be real. Be honest. Be fair. And stand up for that child’s future. Saying something may not only save that child. It may save other children too.
Now if you’re a parent, I understand. It’s easy to react with a, “Oh no he didn’t just tell people to tell me how to raise my child.” I understand. I know it’s hard to be a parent and even harder to hear other people tell you how to be one.
Please. Please listen. We can tell the difference between someone who wants to be in our business for their sake and someone who genuinely wants to help. You are our best hope for the future. The decisions you make with your children matter and we all need you. I know you’re doing your best.
I know it’s hard. I also know sometimes it’s hard for us to see what we need to change in ourselves. Sometimes we need help to change. And it can be done. You can do it. We are here for you.
That means we all have to pitch in. We all need to support each other. We need to build relationships with our neighbors again and take back our streets. We need our churches, and synagogues, our temples, and our mosques to meet the crisis of family we have in our community head on. We need our schools and community centers to support making our children’s lives better. We need education at all levels to thrive, not be a political football.
For those that want to leave, I understand. I know what it means to want to protect the people you love. All any of us can ask is for your help as long as you’re here and to ponder this question. When all the good people leave, what’s left?
There is no silver bullet plan to make people better. There is no magic pill program that can fix this crisis. There is only us, standing up for each other every day. We are a community on the brink of success or disaster. It’s up to us to choose the road.