Mobilizing a community to stamp out violent crime can work. It has done the job in some cities. But can it bring an end to what has become a cycle of murder in Steubenville?
We are about to find out.
A 17-year-old boy was the most recent victim of violence in the city. He was Demitrius Thomas, stabbed to death on the night of July 25. A 16-year-old boy has been charged in his death.
Thomas' father, Michael, has organized a community group to combat violence in Steubenville. It is United Neighbors Ignites Teens with Education and Drug Awareness by Fostering Education, Respect and Openness with Never Ending Truths - UNITED FRONT.
"We need to unite as a community to stop the violence and killing of our young people," Thomas said of the organization.
A community cook-out to get the ball rolling is scheduled for today, from noon until 6 p.m., at Murphy Park in Steubenville.
Other community leaders, including law enforcement officials, support UNITED FRONT. "I am encouraged because I am hearing from people who want to stop the violence," noted Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla.
UNITED FRONT is an excellent idea, with the goal of using a proven strategy for curbing violence. But it is not the first time Steubenville residents have tried that approach. Clearly, previous attempts have not worked.
It appears a culture in which brutality is not just accepted but is expected has taken hold in Steubenville. Part of the task ahead for UNITED FRONT is learning why that is so and developing effective counter-measures.
Clearly, one cause is the rampant violence linked to the illegal drug trade. Much of it flares because of out-of-town thugs who come to the Ohio Valley to make a quick buck - and do not tolerate competition or opposition.
One method of making Steubenville dangerous ground for the pistol-packing pushers is for members of the community to mobilize against them. Passive resistance won't do.
By the hundreds, even thousands, Steubenville residents need to become the pushers' worst nightmare - people calling the police whenever they see or even suspect drug activity and being willing, if necessary, to testify in court about it.
The sad truth is that merely proclaiming violence must end will make the thugs laugh. But if an active UNITED FRONT is presented against them, they may be chased out of Steubenville.