Remember those teen gang movies from the 1950s and '60s? Waterbury is beginning to look like them. The big news in the paper this week (so far) involves 20-30 kids fighting outside the Arts Magnet School downtown, and 70 kids fighting in Washington Park.
I don't know how long this trouble has been brewing, but I saw it start to manifest in my neighborhood this spring. For a couple of weeks, there were numerous teen fights involving large groups of kids, some with weapons. The girls seemed to be the ones most eager to fight and to use weapons. On the worst day, the police had to break up fights five or six times.
I don't know all the details, but one thing I heard from a neighbor was that a girl in the 8th grade was feuding with another girl and was coming to our street to start the fights. For at least one fight, her mother came to help her fight. Craziness.
The paper also recently reported on a fight between two young women that resulted in one of them getting stabbed. They were allegedly fighting over a man who had been dating both of them. More craziness--never attack each other, go after the jerk who was two-timing the both of you.!
Seriously though, why is there so much fighting going on? We could blame video games or television (I once read an article blaming the tv show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" for inspiring teen girls to fight one another), but I think that's pointless. Violence existed long before modern technology.
We seem to have a city-wide problem with teens fighting. Punishing the ones caught fighting (if you can figure out which ones were doing the fighting) isn't going to solve the problem. Maybe there is an established program for teaching kids that fighting isn't the solution to their problems. I'm sure there must be. The schools must be able to identify the kids most likely to be involved. There's probably even funding somewhere for this sort of thing.
I think another part of the equation, as much as I hate to say it, is that Waterbury is now a party city for teens and young adults. There's been a growth in the number of popular nightclubs and in nightclubs with 18+ events. (Not to mention the illegal rave in the former Odd Fellows Building on the Green--now we know what it takes to get 500 people to attend an event downtown! -- just kidding).
Waterbury has been described as a "kindergarten town" for many years. Until now, there's been nothing for teens and young adults in Waterbury (other than hanging out at the mall). Now we have nightclubs, raves and fights. Rather than seeing this as just a problem, hopefully we can see the opportunity as well. We finally have young people coming to Waterbury for their entertainment--surely there is something a little more classy and upscale that we can offer them.