A changing culture among teens and young adults makes growing up a dangerous and sometimes deadly proposition
By Rick Pfeifferemail@example.com
Greater Niagara Newspapers
NIAGARA FALLS — Falls cops say it has become a Saturday afternoon ritual.
Teens, leaving the nearby Boys Club on 17th Street, after playing basketball in a league there, gather in the parking lot of the City Market for a
“It’s been kids fighting and arguing,” said Officer Todd Faddoul, who has responded to many of the incidents. “When we arrived, they’d usually
Until the most recent confrontation on Feb. 10. That’s when one 15-year-old decided to take the trouble to another level.
Standing in the middle of 19th Street, with police officers telling him to “just go home,” the teen instead shouted out a threat to the other kids.
“(Expletive), I’ll come back with guns and shoot you all,” he yelled.
As scary as the threat may have sounded, cops and others in the community say it’s not all that surprising to hear. An alarming increase in the tendency toward violence among teens and young adults is the newest criminal trend on the streets of the Cataract City and across the country.
“They’re bringing knives to school, a lot of guns,” said Falls Police Juvenile Division Detective Lorrie Alverez.
While Alverez said the guns are generally air guns or BB guns, she also said the desire to show off the tools of violence speaks to a changing culture among young people.
“They think that they’re cool by carrying a gun,” Alverez said. “They are trying to make a statement, it’s the ‘gangster’ lifestyle.”
That cultural change is being reflected in what cops come across on the street. On Friday, Faddoul stopped a car after the driver cruised through a stop sign without stopping.
A search of the vehicle, belonging to a 49-year-old Falls man and driven by a 17-year-old, with two other teens with him, revealed what police see far too often these days. In a black jacket, on the drivers seat, officers found 10 live rounds of .38 caliber ammunition.
The teen told Faddoul he found the bullets in a box on the train tracks.
Discoveries like that used to be routine for Juvenile Division Detective Shawn Larrabee when he was assigned to the Roving Anti-Crime Unit.
“(Working with youth) is no different,” Larrabee said, shaking his head. “The only difference is how we deal with them when they’re arrested.”
The juvenile squad deceives say the justice system for young people, as with many young adults, doesn’t do much.
“(Young people) know there are no consequences for their actions,” Alverez said. “They look at us and say, ‘What you gonna do? Put me in front of a judge? He’s gonna tell me I’m a bad kid and send me home with my mom.’ Well, yeah, (the kids) are right.”
That sentiment is echoed by Alverez’s commanding officer.
“Yeah, short of killing someone, there are no tough charges (for juveniles),” Capt. John DeMarco said.
Some believe the lack of accountability, a lack of consequences for young teens involved in crime or violence, translates into even greater trouble as kids enter their twenties.
“The biggest thing I see with these younger people is you simply can’t control them,” said Norm Fadel, the owner of Norm’s Tavern on Niagara Street. “Their parents can’t control them, the police can’t control them, how am I going to control them?”
Fadel has dealt first hand with the results of increasing violence on the streets. His oldest son, James “Jimbo” Fadel, was shot and killed by a man trying to rob the bar in October 2004.
On Jan. 13, 22-year-old Noah Willoughby was gunned down in the 1900 block of Falls Street, by a man who had argued with him earlier at Norm’s. Shawn Gibson has been charged with second-degree murder in that case.
Prior to the shooting, Gibson reportedly told a bystander, “You know how I get down, I shoot people.” Willoughby told friends he wanted an apology from Gibson, because he was “being disrespected.”
Instead, he ended up dead.
“That word, disrespect, is one of the most misused and overused words,” Fadel said.
More importantly, Fadel believes too many young people show no respect to any type of authority.
“When they’re causing trouble, you tell them, ‘Stop or you have to leave.’ and they say, ‘We ain’t leaving’,” Fadel said. “So you call the police and they say, ‘Go ahead, call the police.’ ”
Fadel said he has watched as young men have dared him to call police and then waited to confront the cops.
“They have no fear of the police whatsoever,” he said. “They stand here and wait and then fight with (police). They confront the police verbally and physically until they get maced or Tasered.”
That same frustration confronts Mike Hamilton, the Boys Club program director. The basketball games on Saturday were supposed to give kids something to do, to keep them out of trouble.
“Kids can have a problem in school or the neighborhood and we don’t know about it,” Hamilton said. “But they gather here (to watch the basketball games) and when they leave, there’s trouble.”
While Hamilton said the club was unaware of any incidents prior to Feb. 10, he took quick action to avoid a repeat of the trouble.
A sign posted on the front door of the Boys Club reads “No spectators” for the final basketball game of the season, “Players and coaches only.”
Hamilton shrugs his shoulders, shakes his head and says, “This is what we have to do.”
Contact Rick Pfeiffer at 282-2311, Ext. 2252.