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Monday, February 25, 2008

Is there anybody out there?

The family unit is crumbling under the pressure of the social and economic chaos that is wreaking havoc in many neighborhoods in the City of Trenton, and two recent blotter items from the Trenton Police Department prove it.

In one of the items, a 16-year-old committed armed robbery when he pulled a knife on and stole $50 in pennies from his old man, and then fled the scene.

In the other, a young boy of seven years reached into his jacket pocket on his way to elementary school and found a package containing 70 grams of crack cocaine, which investigating police believe belonged to an assortment of the child's family members.

Both the boy and his sister - who turned the crack in to authorities at their school - were taken away by Division of Youth and Family Services officials, and Trenton police arrested the children's mother, father, and two uncles, charging them with drug offences and endangering the welfare of a child.

These two incidents paint a picture of how even a fundamental and important institution as the family is torn apart when the plight of those in our inner cities becomes so dire that they become willing to mortgage the future of their children for illegal economic gains.

In one way the two crimes could be seen as some sort of sad photography, of snapshots in the life of some of Trenton's more at-risk youth.

There is a strong possibility that the boy who found his daddy's crack in his pocket will likely bounce into youth homes or foster families, and could end up being involved in his own illegal pursuits.

He is only seven years old, yet he has already gone through an experience that would be unimaginable and untenable for the vast majority of people living in this world.

Maybe one day he will become desperate and pull a knife on his foster-father, demanding all of the "rainy day" change on the floor, sitting in a glass bottle in his foster home.

Maybe the boy who was willing to commit armed robbery and victimize his own father was exposed to the dangers of drug-dealing when he was seven, perhaps finding his father's stash of crack cocaine somewhere in his residence.

These two symptoms of much larger problems underscore the need for those in leadership positions in Trenton to begin enacting real, lasting change, in the form of both economic redevelopment and the pumping of money into the kinds of programs that give children a chance to do something else besides being constantly exposed to the ghetto street life of some of Trenton's grittier neighborhoods.

Money spent on a bloated municipal government for a city whose population has been shrinking for decades would be much better spent on programs and initiatives that really help out the community, as opposed to fancy, crony gang czars and multiple aides for an absentee mayor.

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