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The Battle For Farrell
Take Back The Streets
Friday, December 30th 2011. Farrell, PA businessman Bill Basilone heard a noise outside his establishment, he went out to investigate, and was murdered. Shot in the back by two assailants that are still, as of now, at large.
This was another in a spate of shootings and crimes that occurred in the later half of 2011 in a city that may be part of the core of the "rust belt". There have been robberies, and a case where the city's police force shot an unarmed man. But this was different, this was a 58-year old owner of a restaurant. In this age of social media, word, and outrage has traveled fast.
But I see this as a "wake up" call to a city that I grew up in, and have watched from afar spiral downward. A chance for a city that once stood for working-class values to stand up again.
The first thing I see necessary is for the city to look at where the trouble seems to be coming from. Most of it, from what I have read and heard is from Detroit, Michigan and Youngstown, Ohio. A deeper look would probably show a small presence of elements from Chicago, Illinois and Cleveland, Ohio. Efforts to work closely with these cities, and other towns along the way would be a great start.
The next thing is to take a look at why a small town in Northwestern, PA? Location, location, location; Farrell, PA is at an Intersection of Interstates 79 and 80. Drugs, guns, and other goods are likely coming and going between New York, Philadelphia, Buffalo, the outlying communities of Pittsburgh.
Location brings up something else, real estate. A large amount of abandoned properties makes for great opportunities for safe houses; places to store contraband, or have someone lay low until a rival is taken care of, or a case goes cold.
A police force likely not trained to deal with these types of criminals makes the area ripe as well. A regional police force isn't nor can be easily trained to deal with the urban criminal. The fact that the surrounding communities look down, or away could be another obstacle.
The major thing though, is that there's a ready supply of recruits. A lack of jobs means restless young people, and a culture that in many ways glorifies deviants and makes education and conforming to the standards of the larger society out to be "selling out", means the lure of being able to "live large" while "keeping it real" is hard to resist.
So how to fight back? I mentioned the working closely with law enforcement in the "hubs". The community as a whole needs to take a role in building a "culture of resistance" to the "criminal culture" as well.
This would require various elements of the community; law enforcement, churches, the schools to work together to encourage parents and children to steer clear of negative role models. The business community and even what's left of organized labor needs to work to create opportunities.
As the price of failure could be a steep one. One scenario would have the gangs from Detroit and Chicago coming in an basically carving the city up, each claiming a section as their turf. Ongoing discussions on "social media" have led to another nightmare, that could follow from the first, or spring up on its own. A sort of "urban frontier".
Neither of those scenarios appeals to me. The one I'd like to see is for Farrell, Pennsylvania to clean house, and clear the way for businesses to come in, "Green energy" like wind and solar would allow for well-educated people to come and be role-models, and at the same time provide skilled and semi-skilled jobs.
Billy Basilone need not die in vain, nor should an entire city die with him.