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Editorial: Grassroots efforts making strides against poverty, gangs

Nov. 15, 2015 at 4 a.m.


The topic of gangs rarely, if ever, is part of a larger, positive story. But it is becoming that in Longview, thanks to the determination of a great many residents to solve the problems we have in our city.

And make no mistake about it: If Longview is to overcome its myriad ills surrounding gangs, it will not be because of an edict issued from some government office, it will come from the grassroots and build its way upward. That's what we are seeing, and it gives us great hope the situation will improve.

Most who have been paying attention know the great price exacted from Longview this year by drug and gang activity in a record number of violent deaths and other crimes. Not all of the 12 homicides so far this year (police are investigating a possible 13th as this is written) can be laid at the feet of gang violence, but many can.

One thing we all agree upon is that this must be stopped. The question always has been how we go about doing that.

The police have come under pressure to be the agents of change, and they obviously play a significant part in the process. But law enforcement alone never will be the sole answer. In the end, it largely is limited to reacting. Yes, the way police have reacted has prevented some crimes from being committed, but they can't address the underlying issues at play, and there are many.

So a number of others are taking up the challenge to change the status quo in ways that may well be a part of a long-range solution.

Last month, the Junior League of Longview and others sponsored a conference on poverty that attracted hundreds of attendees to LeTourneau University, all focused on finding ways to lessen poverty. While many factors play into the growth of gangs, poverty certainly is a major cause.

Last week, Partners in Prevention organized a discussion on gangs at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center. About 70 people gathered to discuss ways to counteract the influence of street gangs on our young people.

The Longview Metro Chamber and other groups also have had discussions geared to organizing residents to work together on education and other issues.

This week, the Junior League is presenting another session to discuss specific actions the community will take to deal with poverty. And Longview Habitat for Humanity, which provided a forum in September for South Longview residents to speak out about their concerns and be heard by officials, is working to organize stakeholders to take action.

There are many other efforts — some new and some longstanding — also at play as our city pulls together against these challenges.

All this activity makes it clear Longview residents are not going to let this go. They are not going to sit back and wait for someone else to handle it, and they know the official steps taken so far won't get it done.

We understand how easy it is to pretend these issues don't affect the entire city, that this is just gang members targeting each other in a violent drug business. But that's a simplistic view, as is the notion law enforcement alone will be effective in stopping it.

We're gratified to be witnessing a real and growing grassroots determination to address the poverty, education, gang and violence issues we face in Longview. We firmly believe these efforts are going to be successful.

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