Teen criminals issuing a challenge

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 5, 2009

We’re losing.

So far this year, Vicksburg police have filed 270 criminal charges against juveniles. At today’s rate, that will be 540 by year’s end, compared to 395 in all of 2008 and 304 in all of 2007.

And many of the charges aren’t for the prankish crimes of youth — vandalism, underage drinking and the like. This city has people born as recently as 1993 awaiting trial for murder, armed robberies in which victims were pistol-whipped and carjacking.

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Their lives are being wasted despite everything — an inspirational president, heroic efforts by church and civic groups and millions of dollars being spent to provide recreational facilities.

Everyone wants to know why, and there are no quick or easy answers or quick or easy solutions. Poverty and a lack of opportunity are often used as excuses, but how does that explain charges against teens who’ve had plenty of advantages?

Frankly, we’re really tired of the familiar lament that taxpayers aren’t doing enough to entertain young people so as to divert them from launching careers as criminals. Public and private programs are doing more than ever, but we’re still losing ground — and lives — to an epidemic of nihilism unprecedented in the city and nation. We must feel challenged by this to respond with more than rhetoric.

With no apologies, we say there simply has to be a return to the old ways of parenting, where loving a child was best demonstrated by setting expectations and standards high and brooking few if any excuses. The best parents are those who provide what a child needs, not everything a child wants.

As a community and as a people we can’t just be observers and victims as teen crime rises. No challenge is more important.