STEUBENVILLE - Three court officials and a retired educator offered ideas about deterring juveniles and young adults from crime during a program held by Steubenville Community Inc. aimed at addressing violent crimes in the city.
Entitled Stop the Violence, the program was held Friday by Steubenville Community Inc. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center and one of two funded by a $3,000 grant from the Ohio Commission on Minority Health.
Iris Callahan, project coordinator for Steubenville Community Inc., said the commission normally awards funds for health issues affecting minorities, but she was able to convince the group that violence is, in its own way, a disease.
Offering diagnoses and prescriptions were guest speakers Municipal Judge Dan Spahn, City Law Director Gary Repella, Ed Littlejohn, a local probation officer; and retired educator Gene Watkins.
Repella said an intolerance for violence and crime in the community is key to deterring it. Residents need to get involved in reporting crimes or suspicious activity, and victims must play an active role in the judicial process, he said.
Repella said he recently presided over four hearings at which the victims failed to attend.
He added residents must not put themselves in situations, such as being out late at night, that make them potential victims.
Littlejohn said parents need to be responsible for their children.
"I like that commercial - It's 11 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?" he said.
Littlejohn said in addition to knowing their children's whereabouts, parents must stress the importance of school and working hard to achieve goals.
"It's time for us parents to take the little steps," he said.
Littlejohn said the court system often offers young offenders a chance to reverse their trend by sentencing them to community service, but half don't show up to perform it. Why didn't their parents ensure they were there, he asked.
Littlejohn said there are too many negative role models, who attract youth with flashy cars. To counteract that, children need involvement in church and youth programs.
He encouraged all churches to establish or host a youth program.
City Law Director Gary Repella asked why some youth seem to do well through school, then become involved in crime later.
Watkins said parents need to offer their children guidance at all ages. He said since retiring, he has become involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and encouraged adults wanting to make a positive impact on youth to get involved in that program or another.
Representatives of youth programs such as the Brothers and Sisters Intelligentsia Crew Circle, Steubenville Made, the Steubenville Tigers Football and Cheering Association and Kid Time, a new group being formed; were on hand to encourage involvement.
Area residents also were invited to share their own suggestions during a question and answer session moderated by Michael McIntyre, president of Steubenville Community Inc.; the Rev. Samuel Williams Jr. of Christ the King Church; local business owner Karla Martin, Dawud Abdullah of the B.A.S.I.C. Circle, Aundrea Jackson of Kid Time, Michael Jett of Steubenville Made and Melvin Creech Jr. of the Tigers association.