Could the irony be any more painful?
A city-sanctioned event design to provide a positive alternative to mischief and troublemaking for youth on hot summer nights erupts into violence.
Sixty-five first responders are dispatched to the site, following a 911 call that describes “500 disorderly subjects.”
It unfolded two Fridays ago at the city-owned Greensboro Sportsplex on 16th Street, during an event that was part of a series called “Summer Night Lights.”
“SNL Live,” as it called for short, is a Greensboro Parks & Recreation Department program designed to give young people ages 13 to 18 things to do in a safe and constructive environment. That night’s activities included a DJ and music, video games and indoor soccer and basketball. And they were supervised by 20 to 30 city workers, volunteers and police officers. Even so ...
“We did have an incident” Parks & Recreation Department Director Nasha McCray told reporters Wednesday. “We did have about 550 teens that were in attendance at the program, and during that program, there were a small number of incidents involving a small number of participants where we made the decision for the safety of all to dismiss a little early.”
Disturbing video footage of one of the fights shows several teens beating and kicking another as he lay on the floor.
City spokeswoman Carla Banks was slightly more specific, saying that a series of fights broke out among about 10 smaller groups of teens throughout the facility. Beyond that, city officials didn’t have much more to say about it.
They did say that the following Friday’s Summer Night Lights event at the Sportsplex — the last one scheduled for this year — had been canceled. And that they will assess what to do going forward.
First, you sigh deeply. Next, you shake your head at the disheartening news that a remedy had seemed to become a part of the problem. Then you step back and reflect. And you don’t overreact.
You consider the context. The July 26 event that turned ugly was only one of 150 Summer Nights Live events the Parks & Recreation Department has held throughout Greensboro this summer. These programs fill a critical need. Such activities were, in fact, demanded by the community several years ago after a series of disturbances involving teenagers in downtown Greensboro.
Where else could they go? we asked. They were bored and restless. And “an idle mind is the devil’s playground.”
In one packed community meeting at the Central Library, a number of adult and youth speakers spoke to a need for activities that provided a better option than simply “hanging out.”Summer Nights Live does that with movies, crafts and cooking and fitness classes.
So, yes, the July 26 incident was unsettling and disappointing. But the summer is waning.
Police, city staff, parents and other community members should make an honest assessment of what happened and why and consider ways to prevent it next summer.
What the city should not do is discontinue the program.
More than 500 teens turned out for one event. That speaks volumes to its appeal.
So, improve it. Add staff. Involve more parents. But, please, don’t throw out these babies with the bath water.