Honor the life of Wilkes-Barre homicide victim Michael “DJ Mo” Onley by acting on the impulse voiced during a vigil Saturday night in his memory:
“We have to stop the violence.”
The phrase — heard with alarming frequency in the Wyoming Valley after each new assault on our neighbors and our sensibilities — needs follow-through. And, no, the response shouldn’t be only a tactical, police-driven one. It should involve you and like-minded residents recognizing the power of peaceful endeavors to steer young people away from crime.
Onley, 34, a popular deejay who apparently was gunned down indiscriminately while outside a city bar earlier this month, had supported and, in at least one case, organized local anti-violence events. In 2012, Onley’s younger brother Anthony died by a bullet during an incident in South Carolina.
Onley also had joined in anti-drug events, an indication he knew the importance of providing kids with positive messages and alternatives to dangerous, drug-fueled, dead-end activities.
The resources to do so are right in our neighborhoods. To blossom, these “crime-fighting tools” need only the benefit of increased exposure and more financial and volunteer support.
Consider, for instance, these and similar programs that reach young, impressionable people in Luzerne County and beyond: Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge (www.bbbsnepa.com), the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeastern Pennsylvania (bgcnepa.org), the Family Service Association of Northeast Pennsylvania (www.fsawv.org), the Jewish Community Center (www.jewishwilkes-barre.org), Luzerne County public libraries (www.luzernelibraries.org), the McGlynn Learning Center at Boulevard Townhomes and the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center (www.wyomingvalleycyc.org).
What good can these groups accomplish?
Studies suggest children who get a proper education — who are exposed to learning from an early age, don’t get derailed by illegal drug use and don’t drop out before earning a high school degree — are less likely to get into serious trouble, including commit the most violent crimes.
If the theory is accurate, why not foster the after-school services that give area children and teens a better shot at graduation?
That’s the premise behind Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national organization with an offshoot active in Pennsylvania. During one of its events last week, Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams summed up the situation by saying, “The choice is simple: Pay for quality early learning for Pennsylvania children now, or pay far more for the costs of crime and lack of educational success in Pennsylvania for decades to come.”
Sure, blanketing city streets with more police officers can serve as an immediate deterrent to crime. Judges, of course, can continue tossing behind bars any convicted gun-toters and knife-wielders; that was the case earlier this week in Luzerne County Court as 21-year-old Juan Borbon, found guilty of a machete attack last year in Wilkes-Barre that severely injured a teenager’s hand, received an eight- to 16-year prison term.
However, the more effective, long-term cure for a violence-prone society is probably something more personal, something that each of DJ Mo’s admirers can do today.
Vow to help a child succeed.