By Cambria Schwartz
Recently we discussed the “Gilbert Goons” problem (get up to date here) and spoke about an upcoming meeting to discuss ways to resolve it. During the January 23rd committee meeting, many people aired their concerns not only on the topic of increased teen violence in Gilbert, but also the competence of the town council and how they are handling recent situations.
A few members of the council did attend the teen violence subcommittee meeting, but a key person was missing: Mayor Bridgette Peterson. Most took this as a lack of concern for the community’s pressing issues but was later addressed and proved to be in the best interest of the town in order to follow open meeting laws.
Once the council opened the floor to allow community members to speak, former Mayor Steve Berman took to the podium to offer his opinion on the issues the council faced. He advised members to dissolve the Office of Digital Government (ODG) because of their misuse of funds and reallocate the money (an estimated $1.1 million) to fund the salaries of 15 new police officers. Berman’s idea shows all of Gilbert why he once held this position: his eye towards pragmatic and prudent solutions. His hope is that the additional police would help keep the people of Gilbert safe during these unpredictable times.
Council member Chuck Bongiovanni suggested to the council they should partner with schools and conduct a student survey. The survey would allow students to share their thoughts and experiences surrounding teen violence. Mr. Bongiovanni continued to argue how students’ voices are most important because this issue directly affects them. Council member Yung Koprowski even suggested the use of the Bark app. This app would be on teens phones and would alert parents to specific words used on the teens phone. This can be anything referencing drugs or violence. The app would allow parents to give their teen privacy but also monitor their activity from a distance.
The Gilbert Police Department believes they can also make a difference by being more transparent with the public. They plan to achieve this by releasing videos every Thursday on their YouTube channel. These videos will debunk false information and keep the community informed of police efforts.
Can these ideas truly be the solution to teen violence? Council members seem to think so, but only with the help of parents and schools. Without a joint effort between parents, students, and schools Gilbert will not break free from this cycle of violence.