By Karen Murphy
Tallahassee City Commission Seat 1 candidate Dr. Bruce Strouble Jr. recently addressed one of the hottest local issues of the political season, violent crime, saying it should be treated as a “public health issue.”
He called for revitalization of poverty-stricken neighborhoods as a tactic for reducing crime in this city which holds the highest crime rate in the state for the second year in a row.
In a recently released opinion piece, Strouble, a Florida A&M University academic advisor, stated increasing the number of police officers per citizen may be a good start, but other steps are needed to solve the problem long-term.
He supports Tallahassee Chief of Police Michael DeLeo’s advocacy for community policing and increasing the number of police officers per citizen, however, “…it is unfair and unwise to expect the addition of new officers to solely result in any significant decrease in major crime. In order to be successful, these efforts must be coupled with additional measures that attack the roots of violent crime in our city.”
He said these roots “are better correlated to poverty, lack of social capital and mental health issues. Attempts to address crime without a focus on these core issues will only serve as a Band-Aid on an infected gunshot wound,” he said.
“First, we must begin to treat crime as a public health issue,” he said.
In an interview with Tallahassee Reports (TR), Strouble explained, “When you have high poverty and environmental issues like the presence of lead (in some of these poor neighborhoods,) it can influence criminal activity. You have a perfect recipe for high crime.”
He said he would address the poverty rate by advocating “equitable development” in high crime areas. “There are no businesses, just big vacant lots and run down homes,” he said. “It is depressing to live in these neighborhoods. We need a community effort to revitalize these areas,” he said.
In his opinion letter, he said, “The physical appearance of several neighborhoods in Tallahassee is conducive for violence because they influence the morale of the communities, making them less resilient. Criminals often identify these areas and they become hot-spots for criminal activity.”
Strouble told TR the City should work with volunteers and church groups to restore buildings and to revitalize those areas. “The City should provide the leadership,” he said. “We also need to provide incentives for employing people and beef up social programs.”
Additionally, Strouble called for increased efforts in rehabilitating past criminals. Strouble wrote, “There must be a focus on re-entry for ex-offenders. If we do not find a way to make them productive members of our communities they are likely to re-offend.”
During his TR interview, he elaborated, “There is a lot of research that suggest that when they are able to re-adjust and establish relationships with their children, recidivism rates decrease. So if we are to get serious about fighting crime we have to give some attention to those who have made mistakes and are looking to get on the right path.”