On Thursday evening Burbank residents gathered at the Burbank Temple Emanu El to discuss violence. Coming on the heels of the Orlando Massacre, Istanbul, San Bernadino, and other almost daily attacks around the world against innocent civilians driven by religious, political, or simply mental illness.
The Voices Against Violence was hosted by Rabbi John Carrier, with additional support by Burbank Mayor Jesse Talamantes and Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse.
Attendees were encouraged to voice their thoughts, opinions, concerns, and recommendations throughout the evening on how we, as a community, may be able to approach the topics of violence starting in the home, our schools, and following the continuum to extreme acts of mass murder.
“An act of violence is an outcome of their (those who commit violence) homes. How can you gun down people if you have a good home environment?” asked one attendee.
“Columbine was a new type of thing, now this is almost a routine” voiced another.
The discussions touched on a lot of potential root causes for the current “wave” of violence hitting our communities. Mostly the cause was thought to be a weak home, missing obvious messages from our youth, and as Chief LaChasse advised “sometimes diseases such as schizophrenia only manifest themselves when we are in our mid-20s.”
However, the consensus from the group was that nearly all major incidents in the US have had signals that if identified early enough, and acted on, may have been prevented. It might be a student who becomes silent and withdraws from his social setting, or a significant personality change – there are nearly always signs a person is on the edge, and may be in need of help.
Mayor Talamantes noted that following the Orlando Massacre an event was prevented in Santa Monica, when a resident identified a person acting suspiciously, and called it into the police. “We have to be proactive” when a person or action is clearly out of place, or obviously wrong.
Chief LaChasse also advised the police cannot be everywhere, all of the time. There are approximately 1.5 police officers for every 1000 resident, and the numbers do not favor complete visibility into potential incidents. Thus, residents and those people in the community must be comfortable with the idea of “if you see something, say something.” When this happens, the community becomes a “force multiplier” with the police, increasing our safety and ability to quickly identify and respond to incidents.
Following additional discussion, including an exercise where the group drew on religious guidance on how to deal with violence, theft, and ensuring the safety of self and family, the group engaged in a brainstorming session with the focus on how we, as a community, can help ensure we are able to reduce our exposure to the risk of violence.
Some ideas and thoughts included:
- We need to get to know each other better, our neighbors and community
- We cannot be 100% safe, but even 5% assurance is better than 0%
- Mental illness is a common thread to violence, and we can help those who may be at risk of succumbing to emotional breakdowns, disease, and influence from extreme ideologies or causes which may prey on those who are most at risk and vulnerable
- The community, including parents of our young people, need better education on the causes and symptoms of violent behavior
And many other ideas.
The meeting ended without having a solid plan for dealing with either domestic violence, or international terrorism. However, the objective of bringing the topic into the community was fulfilled. This will not be the last Voices Against Violence gathering in Burbank, and Rabbi Carrier hopes that for every person who attended the meeting, they will bring 3 or 4 of their family, friends, and neighbors to the next meeting, and continue growing until we can better understand the whys and hows of violence, and begin problem-solving to reduced the risk of violence – and of course improve our quality of life.
Voices Against Violence is a global, loosely organized movement promoting a common vision of community involvement and education in topics related to violence. Although much of the international focus is on domestic violence, in particular violence against women, the scope is rapidly expanding to include all kinds of violence, from school bullying, to domestic abuse, to crimes against women, human trafficking, and ultimately mass act of murder and terrorism.