On the first night of what promises to be a long, hot summer, San Bernardino registered its 31st homicide of the year. Tragically, horribly, but not altogether surprisingly, the victim was a child.
Another 11-year-old. Another life lost barely after it had begun.
That Anthony Michael Ramirez would be shot to death on the safe haven of a school basketball court only underlines the despair felt right now by so many in this community.
Our neighborhoods are on fire. Our streets have become war zones. Our safety nets have been cut open.
The death of an 11-year-old girl was a wakeup call for the newspaper, Editor Steve Lambert said: “How could we cover this as just another killing? As a staff, we went after it with a vengeance: multiple stories on the front page every day — more than 1,000 in 2006 alone — as if to hold a mirror up to our community and show it what it didn’t want to see.”
Recent results included a new mayor elected on a broad anti-crime platform that also focused on digging deeper into social, economic and family issues that contribute to street violence. Residents mobilized in ways they hadn’t before; groups and grassroots efforts sprung up throughout the community. Money began pouring in to help support initiatives to reduce violence and create a gang-free school program. County and state police loaned officers to San Bernardino, and by year’s end, the city had agreed to hire an additional 26 officers.
By year’s end, murders were down 15 percent and aggravated assaults down 30 percent from a year earlier.
“Even amid criticism,” Lambert said, “we knew in our hearts that we were doing the right thing.”