Donna Jackson, president of Take Back Our Streets — a Newark, New Jersey, community-based organization — led a protest in early August outside City Hall, calling on its mayor, Cory Booker, to resign over the brutal murders of three college students and the wounding of another. Iofemi Hightower, 20; Dashon Harvey, 20; and Terrance Aeriel, 18, were gunned down outside a Newark elementary school. Aerial’s sister, Natasha, survived — with a gunshot wound to the head.

Jackson’s reaction is indicative of a common problem among people living in impoverished and violent neighborhoods: the blame game, which is all too convenient and predictable in times of crisis. Amid all the grief, shock, and anger after these killings, I think this tragedy should be used as a time for self-reflection, which is something people tend to shy away from when hit by a devastating event in their community.

I am dismayed by the inability of people, like Ms. Jackson, who refuse to address the crux of a problem. There is a breakdown in family values and morality in our community. I say this not because I am a conservative, which I am not. I say this because I grew up in a loving and supportive household with two parents, who also came from nuclear families. I magnify this point not to criticize single-parent households but to advocate for success and opportunities that I don’t think are as easily achieved when one adult is faced with rearing children under despondent conditions. Many citizens of Newark face this reality on a daily basis.

There are too many uneducated and dysfunctional teenagers and adults who are having children they cannot possibly rear successfully. Although we know that at least one of the suspects in this case is an illegal immigrant with previous indictments, I venture to guess that the suspect was from an unstable and hopeless environment.

We have a virus growing. It takes the form of babies out of wedlock, poor academic achievement, and low self-esteem. We are not being truthful with ourselves if we think the resignation of a mayor will yield a lower crime rate. If children were raised to stay in school, stay away from guns and drug activity, we would have a much higher success record when it comes to the war on crime.

Yes, politicians are responsible for making sure neighborhoods are adequately policed and schools remain safe. But parents must be present in their children’s lives at all times, so they don’t fall prey to the streets. If Ms. Jackson wants to lead a protest, I encourage her to protest against the inactions of incompetent, deadbeat parents.

Alexis Clark / New York

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