The nanny municipality
Among the issues commanding the attention of the Council recently has been the question of Teaneck's response to the alarming uptick in gang activity in town. Last night's Council meeting featured an impassioned discussion about a resolution ratifying a costly proposal to add police officers to help combat the gang problem in town. Ultimately, with some apparent reluctance, a majority of the Council agreed to back the plan in response to the gang threat. As one of the voices calling for serious consideration of the issue in consultation with the Teaneck Police Department command, I am pleased to see that Township officials have taken the issue seriously, despite the unwelcome financial burdens associated with the proposed solution. Hopefully, the recommendations of our law enforcement officials will prove effective enough to put an end to gang activity in town.
What did not please me were the comments of a number of residents and officials who spoke at the meeting. It seemed that several speakers were subtly assigning blame to the Township for the gang problem. As they rattled on about the need to demonstrate to the youth of Teaneck that the community is behind them through expanded programming and handouts of public funds to local non-profit organizations, it became clear that certain individuals simply cannot pass up an opportunity to advocate for additional services, more government spending, and a greater role for public institutions in community life, all at taxpayer expense.
One might argue that the root cause of gang membership and violent criminal activity is poor parenting, low self-esteem, boredom, or whatever other excuse one might offer and that attempts to stamp out such anti-social behavior that do not address these root causes are doomed to failure. It does not then follow that it is the responsibility of every Teaneck taxpayer to furnish entertainment options for local teens. It would be terrific if we had the resources to prevent every young person in town from getting mixed up with gangs and falling into a life of criminal behavior. We do not. In fact, Teaneck does not even have the resources to pay for the additional police officers needed to contain the existing problem, though we have little choice but to do so. The best we can do at this stage is take steps to protect the innocent from the pernicious side effects of gang activity in town. There is no way we can protect the criminally inclined from themselves, too.
It's time to look away from government and towards ourselves as individuals if we want Teaneck's children to turn out better. What kind of parents, grandparents, or siblings are we? Are we volunteering our time with local organizations as mentors, coaches, tutors, or the like? Are we giving what we can afford to give financially to the causes that matter to us, or are we just putting our hands out to others, hoping to compel them to make up the difference?
The Township of Teaneck handles public safety and law enforcement, and for that reason, the Council has just agreed to saddle our community with a significant ongoing expense to protect public order. The people of Teaneck as family members, neighbors, and friends are responsible for steering our youth down the right path. It is time for us to individually assume an equal responsibility for achieving the outcomes we hope for.