7. Treating yourself poorly
Previously in this series:
Part 1: 'He could go either way'
Part 2: 'Lord of the Flies'
Part 3: 'And I am keeping him hungry'
Part 4: A chat with Madison Police Chief Noble Wray
Part 5: Not lowering our standards
Part 6: Saying 'We love you'
Out the window of Officer Mike Hanson's cruiser, I spot a teenage boy with pants down around his knees. "Let's make a bust right here and now," I exhort. Hanson says he does not have the authority. I beg to differ, citing city ordinance 26.01, banning lewd and lascivious behavior.
But that is a frustration of many long-time residents: that quality of life "offenses" go skating while police are diverted investigating more serious crime. But the Broken Windows Theory teaches filthy language, littering, vandalism, intimidation, drug abuse, gangs, killings are all part of the same continuum.
The low pants thing is said to derive from doing time in prison, where waistlines either waste away or get trimmed by jailhouse exercise. Someone whose pants are falling down and whose mouth is functioning as a sewer pipe cannot have good self-esteem.
That is the other cultural shock. The brutality of common speech - forget about a gangsta wannabee or a parolee from Joliet State Prison. This is how mothers here - many of them - speak to their children.
Officer Hanson notes the tough, profanity-laced language with which parents scald their children. "No one is asking, 'How are you doing? Did you have a good day?'" he laments.
Jim Monroe, himself dressed in a sharp business suit and tie, tells me, "If you think of yourself poorly you will treat yourself poorly."
Madison is program rich
There is more positive reinforcement going on in these neighborhoods.
- At the Wisconsin Youth Co. on McKenna Boulevard, just south of Park Ridge neighborhood, 6-5 "Big Tony" Travis oversees hip-hop dance contests, football and school tutoring. On the day I visit, the center's online computer workshop is humming with activity.
Travis has the no-nonsense Chicago street cred to get through to some of the hard cases. "Kids join gangs when there is nothing else to do. I tell them, 'when you get shot it's not like TV. No pretty girl is going to run to the hospital and put diamonds around your neck. You just better hope you live.'"
- The Meadowood neighborhood center opened this spring with daytime teen activities with foosball table, air hockey, couches and a kitchenette. Its daytime programming for young people includes including cooking classes, photography, dancing, and a mural-painting club.
- The Boys and Girls Club of Allied Drive picks up and returns children aged 12 and under for field trips and other activities five days a week for just $5.
- Allied Drive neighborhood association president Florenzo Cribbs is promoting a new program, Fill the Gap, to build study habits and a work ethic. It's sponsored by the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club.
- And the greatest social program of all: jobs!
Aaron Perry is Dane County's neighborhood intervention specialist specializing in gangs. He has signed up 12 "hard case" gang members for a work detail this summer at minimum wage ($7.25 an hour). At a neighborhood meeting held at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, one lady complained of kids clogging the drainage ditch in the greenway behind her house with discarded furniture and mattress padding.
"They're going to clean that up!" Perry vowed.
Coming next: Generous to a fault