GUIZERIX: We must be proactive, not reactive, toward youth crime

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, February 8, 2023

A child was shot and killed two blocks from my home last week.

Two Blocks.

That’s too close to home and too troublesome for my heart. Hearing sirens screaming past as they head down Speed Street — a pretty regular occurrence when you live near a major road in town — always makes my heart rate spike a little. But when they stop close enough that I’m still able to see reflections of blue and red dancing across tree boughs in the dark, it’s sobering.

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As I packed my toddler’s backpack for preschool the next day, I fielded calls from The Post’s news team as we attempted to piece together what exactly happened. I looked at my child, with her little pink sneakers and button nose, and thought, the child who lost his life was once a bright-eyed toddler, too.

His mother probably lovingly packed his backpack for school. I wondered if he’d reached the age where he was “too cool” to be seen with his grown-ups, or if he still curled up next to a trusted loved one when he had a bad day.

I wondered what his last words were, if he saw the face of Jesus as his earthly body was no longer of use.

And then, we learned about those accused of committing such an atrocious crime. At first, I’m ashamed to admit I felt relief that the suspected killers were behind bars and likely would be there for a long time.

But, as it’s wont to do, my mind wandered again and I realized: The three teens who allegedly carried out the crime were once innocent children, too.

There’s no telling at what point those boys began to lead lives that contributed to this heinous act.

We, as a community, can sit back and ask those rhetorical questions all day long. We’ve reacted to this senseless killing, and that’s good. But there’s another part of the solution that’s missing: If we can be reactive, we must be willing to be proactive.

Children as young as 6 or 7 years old are already greatly impacted by negative influences in their lives. What are we doing in the way of early intervention to help steer Vicksburg’s young people away from lives of crime?

We should be reaching every child through multiple avenues — at school, at church, at the barbershop or even at the grocery store. We should be protecting children from those who wish to do them harm or strip them of their innocence.

We should be paying attention to children before they become the “problem child.”

The city of Vicksburg’s Youth Violence Prevention Committee is a fantastic place to begin when it comes to refocusing on our at-risk youth. It’s my hope that they see the need to reach children early — it just might be the difference in whether or not we wake up to yet another murdered child.