From mayoral candidate State Senator Marilyn Moore:
Years ago, my brother got into an argument with someone on Stratford Avenue, here in Bridgeport. What the disagreement was about hardly matters today; what matters is that my brother realized it was not worth it, and decided to walk away. He was shot in the back while walking away. A murder, another one, in the streets of our city.
As a mother, sister and friend to so many people in our city, not a day goes by that I do not worry that someone I love will be in the wrong place at the wrong time and that a life will be cut short by another person wielding a gun. I know many in our community carry this same worry around each day.
My story, the story of my family, is hardly rare or unusual. Nearly every Bridgeport resident has felt the impact of gun violence. It’s a constant drip of tragedy and trauma that permeates almost every corner of our city.
The impact of gun violence in our community is broad, complex, pervasive. Crime and violence exact a high cost on children. Research has shown that children growing up in high-violence neighborhoods suffer from the same post traumatic stress disorder symptoms that haunt too many of our war veterans. Living in constant fear takes a toll, visible even in education. Kids often struggle to concentrate in school because they are traumatized by violence.
The effects of gun violence are also felt in our local economy when businesses choose not to invest in our city. Bloomberg calculates that gun violence costs every Chicago household about $2,500 a year. In Bridgeport, the vacant lots and empty storefronts suggest a similar impact.
Urban gun violence is complex, with many causes. To address the violence, Bridgeport needs a comprehensive approach that includes both short-term, immediate measures to improve safety in our city while we also address its root causes with long-term, evidence-based solutions.
The first step is to restore trust in our Bridgeport Police Department. The Bridgeport Police Department is stretched too thin and its leadership has not been able to readily tackle the challenges it has faced. If we want to increase public safety and restore trust in our law enforcement, then we need to better train law enforcement to engage productively with our neighbors. Ensuring safe communities is a matter of social justice–and that requires a police department that is up for the job.
We must look beyond policing, however. Violence is in many ways a contagious disease–people exposed to violence are more likely to engage in violence. It is imperative that we stop the epidemic of violence in our communities by grappling with the issues that lead people down a violent path in the first place.
As a state senator, I formed an urban gun violence task force and will be working with experts from across the state to find proven solutions for keeping guns out of our communities. But we cannot and will not stop there. Every member of our community must be involved in finding solutions today to the myriad problems that lead to gun violence.
We have to work with the business community to help create jobs with real living wages for Bridgeport residents. We must provide our public schools with the resources they need to give our children a true pathway to opportunity. We need to strengthen early childhood education and intervention programs, the most effective in improving school achievement. We need to provide affordable, clean, safe housing, and ensure public housing has good access not only to jobs but also services for those who need them. For the victims of violence, we must identify and support organizations that understand the trauma of gun violence and how it impacts our health.
As Dr. Gary Slutkin of Cure Violence says, “Violence is learned behavior. Violence can also be unlearned behavior.” I know these issues are complex, but I believe with all my heart that we have within us and around us the tools necessary to reduce and, ideally, eliminate gun violence within our communities.