MOBILE, Alabama -- Mobile County School Board Commissioner Dr. Reginald Crenshaw held a news conference today emphasizing the need for the community to work together to end youth violence.
Crenshaw was joined by MCPSS Superintendent Chresal D. Threadgill, board President Don Stringfellow, Vice President Doug Harwell and members Sherry Dillihay-McDade and Johnny Hatcher. Representing the city of Mobile and the Mobile Police Department were Chief Paul Prine, Sgt. John Young, and Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator Cpl. Curtis Graves. Several community advocates were present as well, including NAACP President Robert Clopton and the Dortch family.
“We know what the problem is – guns. So now, we’ve got to see what we can possibly do to correct that,” Crenshaw said. “We must get out in the community and stay out in the community.”
The forum was held one week after a student at LeFlore High School fired a gun, injuring two students. LeFlore administrators immediately placed the school in lockdown, ensuring the safety of the students and staff. The shooter is being charged as an adult and the injured students are okay.
“This is a time of urgency,” said Threadgill, adding that the leading cause of death of black males ages 16-24 is gun violence. “The elephant in the room is that we need to stop pointing fingers and blaming everybody else. The police can’t do it by themselves. The school system can’t do it by themselves. It’s going to take all of us.”
Mobile County Public Schools has increased its security measures over the years, having resource officers and now sheriff’s deputies working in schools throughout the county, adding the Crisis Alert System, cameras and automatic door locks, and implementing preventative measures such as a text line to report problems as well as mental health and family support initiatives.
The school system is finalizing a plan to add another layer of security, Threadgill said. Details of the plan will be announced later this month.
Threadgill said youth violence boils down to two issues: The accessibility of guns and students not understanding conflict resolution.
Chief Prine agreed.
Violent crime in Mobile has decreased 20 percent over the last few years. But it’s still too high.
“It should not be the Police Department upholding strategic initiatives. It should be the community’s initiative with the Police Department supporting the community,” Prince said. “Yes, we can hold our Police Department accountable. But we cannot arrest our way out of this. Arresting a 16- 17- or 18-year-old kid means that kid winds up in the penal system, and that affects them for the rest of their lives.”
“This is not something we cannot solve,” added Graves, a former school resource officer.
Crenshaw has worked with community members on a Stop the Violence campaign and announced Thursday that he will continue to do so. On Thursday, he revealed new posters discouraging youth violence that will be distributed throughout Mobile County.
“Sadly, we are challenged with guns attending school with our students,” Clopton said. “School should be a safe haven. There are no if’s and’s and but’s about it. We have to do a root-cause analysis of the problem, develop strategic action plans, and we have to execute those plans.”