Teen Gang Violence

Teen Gang Violence (1985)

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Themes: Education and Families | Urban Challenges |

Guests: Hartford Smith, James Younger, Emeral Crosby
Host : Ed Gordon
Producer : Dianne Hudson


Summary: In this special, hour-long presentation from late 1985, host Ed Gordon explores the impact and causes of teen violence with a panel that includes a police official, a high school principal, a social work expert and a former teen gang member.

The program begins with a previously broadcast segment on teens and guns. In that segment, reporter and future DBJ host Darryl Wood examines the killing of a Detroit shopkeeper by three teens and the shooting of another teen that left that youth paralyzed from the waist down.

The wounded teen, Shawn Norman, was shot by someone trying to steal his jacket and gym shoes. He was one of more than 200 juveniles who had been victimized by gun violence so far that year in Wayne County. Brief interviews with a number of students about the impact of violence on teens also are included in the segment.

After the video presentation, Gordon introduces the panel: Professor Hartford Smith of the Wayne State University School of Social Work; Cmdr. James Younger, head of the Detroit Police Department's felony prevention division; Dr. Emeral Crosby, principal of Detroit's Pershing High School; and the former gang member, identified only as Joe and shown in shadow from a remote location to conceal his identity.

Joe says that everyone he knows carries a gun, not with the intent of hurting anyone, but simply to protect themselves from attack. He says that he was shot once in front of his own home.

Smith says America's cities are seeing younger and more sophisticated delinquents than ever before. The problem is intensified by a deterioration in the sense of community and increasing pressures on the poorest families.

"We've seen for the first time in American society the tip of a very ugly iceberg," he says. "We live, essentially in a community of strangers, which leaves many youth to their own tactics of survival."

Many young people, he says, get little supervision because parents are separated and working multiple jobs. In addition, public policies do little to help support families.

Crosby acknowledges the problems that exist in the schools, but he says that a great deal of the difficulty in schools is an extension of what is going on in the surrounding neighborhood. Schools, he points out, do not condone or encourage students carrying weapons, smoking or taking drugs.

But he adds that some of the difficulty is also the result of public policy decisions that put more than 3,000 teenagers into a single high school that covers less than a city block. "We're compressing too many people together," he says.

The discussion also includes a variety of questions and comments from callers in the viewing audience.

This program offers some valuable perspective on the problem of youth violence as it was being experienced in the inner city of Detroit in the mid 1980s. It illuminates the complexity of the problem and the difficulties school and police officials faced in their attempts to deal with the issue.


Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 20, File 17, Teen Unemployment
Box 29, File 18, Teen Violence


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