"... one of the foremost national experts on school and workplace violence, facility protection, evacuations, terrorism prevention and leadership training"   US Senate

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Vincent Bove Article

Published in:

The New Jersey Police Chief, January 2007

Community: The Hope of America
By Vincent J. Bove, CPP


Shattered Community: Broken Families and Abandoned Youth

On a website developed by three California law enforcement officials, is a compelling article entitled, Where Have All the Parents Gone? The article is a testimonial of a law enforcement official with 24 years of experience vicariously being a parent to abandoned youth because their parents are virtually non-existent. In the article are some very disturbing photographs depicting the isolation of very young American children, as though they are socially quarantined, including:

  • A six-year old walking home alone from school and crossing busy railroad tracks without supervision.
  • Two very young children walking home alone from school with no parental or adult supervision.
  • Three children approximately 8 to 9 years old swimming out to a channel buoy in a busy, deep water channel with no visibility, no life jackets and strong currents. The author's dog is photographed swimming in the shallow banks of the same river and is clearly wearing a life preserver while the children at peril in the deeper section are without life jackets. In the same river just two weeks earlier, a 7 year old drowned while swimming alone.
  • Note: The dangers of children being left unsupervised are well documented. U.S. Department of Justice reports indicate that in a recent year 58,200 children were abducted by non-family members and 74% of children who were murdered were killed within the first 3 hours. (see NISMART statistics)

Regarding crime and youth, the law enforcement author moves from the aforementioned dangers to the safety of youth and expresses concern that the kids get younger, the violence gets worse and the hatred grows stronger as the parents remain oblivious.

The article gives reason to be seriously concerned with the ramifications of the shattered community of the American family for until our nations parents get back on track with responsibility, involvement, dedication to family and the lives of their children; educators and law enforcement officials will continue to be significantly impacted with this current societal dysfunction of too many parents who lack connectedness in the lives of their very own children.

Displaced Community: Lessons Learned from the World of Nature

There is a Latin expression “Natura est filia dei” which is translated as “Nature is the daughter of God” and it rightfully expresses that we have much to learn about the intention of the Creator by observing the world of nature.

The Discovery channel presented a special entitled, Killer Elephants which often broadcasts reruns due to the impact and importance of its message. The documentary shows the slaughtered carcasses of young bull rhinoceros on an African Wildlife Preserve. Upon conducting an investigation into the cause of these deaths, the initial understanding was that they were caused by poachers interested in cashing in on the valuable ivory tusks of the rhinos. Yet, as carcasses were autopsied, it was obvious that the tusks remained intact and death was caused by catastrophic brutal force. Upon completion of the investigation, it was clearly determined that the deaths of these young, healthy and vibrant rhinos were caused by young bull Killer Elephants whom had been displaced from their herds to the African Wildlife Preserve. Being social by nature, the young bull elephants developed a profoundly deep internal rage that vented through the intensely aggressive killing of the bull rhinoceros on the preserve although there was never an issue of the shortage of food or a competition for sustenance. There is a concrete correlation to this lesson of nature with violence taking place at an American High School in New Orleans due to the displacement of youth caused by Hurricane Katrina:

As written in the December issue of The New Jersey Police Chief, in an article entitled Violence Concerns from the Schoolhouse to the White House, according to a November 1, 2006 New York Times report there were no fewer then 25 security personnel who protect John McDonough High School in New Orleans which is a school with very grave security concerns.

Many of the students at this school live on their own or with other students since their parents were displaced due to Hurricane Katrina. The displacement has been a continuously detonating time bomb for uncontrollable anger that is manifested through a deprivation of civility and a culture of school violence. During the first six weeks of this school year, a teacher and security guard were brutally beaten by students and hospitalized. Many other students have attacked other security personnel, teachers and a police officer. Over 20 students of the 775 already face expulsion and another 50 have already been suspended. Principal Donald Jackson stated there are fights every day and there have already been six very serious assaults.

Criminal Community: The Gang Mentality

A gang is defined as a group of individuals who share a common connection and are involved with criminal activities. Although the term gang is usually understood in a negative context, many individuals are proud of their “gang community” and identify this bond with one another in scornful defiance of authority. Some of the well known gangs are the Crips, Bloods, Gangster Disciples, Latin Eagles, Vice Lords, 18th Street Gang, Mara Salvatrucha, International Posse and Tiny Raskal Gang. There are also criminal biker gangs such as the Hells Angels with over 200 chapters in the United States and 29 foreign countries and the Bandidos which is estimated to have 600 members.

Becoming a member of a gang is often very involved and ritualistic and can involve being beat up (jumped in) or having to commit a crime. There is a hierarchy within the gang where individuals can work themselves to the top of the “community” and be protected by the other members of the gang. Many gangs obtain a perverted sense of legitimacy within communities by keeping other criminals off their turf and thereby acting as a deviant style of community protectors, despite the fact they are involved in crimes themselves and guns and drugs are often at the core of their activities. (see Gangs on Wikipedia)

The National Criminal Justice Service, released information and statistics gleaned from a wide variety of gang publications which stresses:

  • Within the correctional setting, when a victim was attacked, weapons were used 49.5 percent against the staff and 86.1 percent of the time against inmate victims.
  • Surveys show that approximately 10 percent of gangs are female.
  • There are approximately 24,500 gangs and 772,500 active gang members in more then 3,300 jurisdictions across the United States. (Some of the gangs involved with this study were The Nations, Latin Kings, Netas, Five Percenters, Bloods, Crips, Prison Brotherhood of Bikers, and the Aryan Brotherhood) Currently in New Jersey, the Intelligence Section of the New Jersey Department of Corrections maintains files on over 7,734 gang members in the correctional system from over 257 different gangs.
  • Gang-affiliated inmates were more likely to be involved in drug trafficking, property destruction and other misconduct.
  • At least 50 percent of gang members were juveniles (i.e., younger then 18). Reports indicate that 47 percent of gang members were Hispanic, 31 percent African American, 13 percent white, 7 percent Asian and 2 percent other.
  • Among gang-members, 71.6 percent felt strong family involvement would prevent youth from joining gangs.
  • According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Prevention Program, killings by juvenile gang members increased 500 percent between 1980 and 1994, making this one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States.

Essentially, whether within the correctional facility or on the streets, gangs equate to violence, manifested by guns and drugs, all inseparable in a vicious cycle. Gang members who engage in illegal activity carry weapons for protection and use violent retaliation for real or perceived disrespect. Retaliation can be targeted toward any gang member representative, not just the one who committed the disrespect. Once a war, ignited by this type of belligerent animosity ignites, violence may be perpetual. If an individual is recognized as a gang member (easily facilitated through beads, clothing, tattoos, colors, graffiti, hand signals, etc.) that person is in serious danger of violence and even if one leaves a gang, the dangerous association remains and the violence continues and can easily escalate. Many American youth, especially those experiencing brokenness without a strong foundation of family, will continue to gravitate toward gangs, if they sense that the gang is their only hope of recognition, acceptance, protection and community.


Community Policing: An Ounce of Prevention

Responding to the American crisis of shattered communities, the concept of community policing and its proper development into the culture of a police department prior to its practical application in the community is more critical then ever to the nation. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) explains community policing:

“Community policing focuses on crime and social disorder through the delivery of police services that includes aspects of traditional law enforcement, as well as prevention, problem-solving, community engagement, and partnerships. The community policing model balances reactive responses to calls for service with proactive problem-solving centered on the causes of crime and disorder. Community policing requires police and citizens to join together as partners in the course of both identifying and effectively addressing these issues”.

Under the umbrella of community policing, these are many outstanding and desperately needed community cohesiveness building programs that take place throughout the nation. These initiatives are due to the leadership and collaboration of law enforcement and community members which include the youth of American communities. These programs encourage youth, parents, corporations, all levels of government, family and community involvement and present the hope that can transform shattered communities or enhance strong communities. These initiatives include citizen appreciation events, citizen/business and senior citizen police academies, personal safety training, identity theft prevention training, national night out, law enforcement valor award events, leadership recognition events at community meeting venues, crime prevention training, neighborhood block watches, security survey/target hardening assistance, crime stoppers, citizen crime prevention advisory committees, police mini-stations, sector patrol programs, senior/child ID programs, street lighting enhancement initiatives, holiday family-in-need donation programs, police headquarters open house days, bicycle patrols, operation identification and auxiliary police programs.

For these programs to be effective, there must be leadership within an agency and the culture of understanding community policing must be enhanced through community policing development and continuous education courses, leadership enhancement programs such as the West Point Command and Leadership Program, retreats for the chief and top command staff, ongoing presentations that prevent superficial understanding of community policing and create a consistent vision for instilling it as an agency culture and multi-agency partnership and leadership management training to enhance communication and collaboration.

School Community: The Children are the Future

Complimenting the above mentioned community policing initiatives are school programs that build community and include school resource officers, G.R.E.A.T, D.A.R.E., cops on campus, police athletic leagues, character and patriotism education , leadership awards, leadership in action and community service programs, alcohol and drug free school initiatives, impaired drinking and underage driving prevention, internet security awareness, and youth police academies for all age groups of the school community.

Recently, I have had the privilege of conducting a security vulnerability assessment for middle schools and a high school with a combined population of over 3,000 within a school district, address 1,500 high school students on leadership, present character and patriotism education to over 300 elementary students and deliver presentations to hundreds of educators, emergency management and law enforcement officials at various venues throughout the United States entitled “School Security, Character Education, Emergency Planning, Lockdowns and Evacuations.”

During these opportunities I have had open interaction with an extraordinary cross section of America. To a person, Americans from throughout the nation have stated without reservation that the hope of America is community; the community of the classroom, the community of the family, the community of the school, the community of the corporation, the community of the law enforcement agency, the community of the neighborhood, the community of the town and, ultimately, the community of the nation.

American parents, educators, students, law enforcement officials, and company employees are calling out with firm conviction that transforming community is the answer to the American crisis of brokenness and it is through the leadership, vigilance and collaboration of these members of society, particularly through the family and the school, that America will be restored to its rightful destiny of strength of purpose, hope to the world, and admired nation dedicated to community.

Vincent J. Bove, CPP is a Board Certified Protection Professional, Board Certified Crime Prevention Specialist, Certified Law Enforcement Instructor and U.S. Department of Justice Certified Community Anti-Terrorism Awareness Trainer.

He is the 2007 New Jersey recipient of the prestigious FBI Director's Community Leadership Award and was hand-selected to serve as a facilitator and mentor for the 2007 National Conference on Ethics in America and speaker for the 2008 conference at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

"Vincent J. Bove is considered one of the foremost national experts on school and workplace violence prevention, specializing in facility protection, evacuations, terrorism prevention and leadership training." -- U.S. Senate

You can visit Mr. Bove's website at www.vincentbove.com or email him at vincent@vincentbove.com

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