Speech to the Menlo Park City Council (9 February 1993) after John Greenleaf Whittier

My name is Tom Sharp. I live at 440 Gilbert Avenue in the Willows. As I was thinking about what to say to you about crime in my neighborhood I read the Times Tribune of Thursday February 4th. This issue featured stories about homicides in East Palo Alto. The front-page headline: “THE CORE OF KILLERS 40 to 50 young men do most of the shooting.” If we had 40 to 50 such young men in Menlo Park, I would not need to tell you how important this problem should be to you. Under this article is a summary of the most sensational events: “City’s most savage murder cases.” I quote: In the city that had the highest per-capita homicide rate in the country in 1992, the most savage murder suspect may have been Walter Joseph Cook III, a 20-year-old East Palo Alto resident charged with slaying three people in less than four months. The first of these murders occurred one year ago tonight: The Feb. 9 killing of 45-year-old Menlo Park resident Earnest Saddler, who was beaten to death with boards on Menalto Avenue. This part of Menalto Avenue is in East Palo Alto, but Earnest Saddler lived three doors from me. A 45-year-old neighbor could be beaten to death with boards and we could still think this is East Palo Alto’s problem. Being beaten to death with boards doesn’t sound to me like a good way to die, but, for me, the most alarming piece in the paper was not these terse retrospectives; it was an advertisement on page A-9 below the Police and Fire Report: The eye catcher: A chalk outline of a dead man, a bullet through his heart; the name on the man: East Palo Alto: outline of a dead man labeled East Palo Alto The name of the story: EAST SIDE STORY The copy: East Palo Alto has the highest murder rate in the U.S. Ride with the 911 emergency teams that must respond to these brutal crimes. Our KTVU camera crew works the graveyard shift in Murder Capital U.S.A. Starts tonight on The ORIGINAL 10 o’clock News. KTVU logo NEWS YOU TRUST, TIME AFTER TIME. I have been going door to door in my neighborhood with the petition that has been presented to you to tonight, and I want you to realize that you have the signatures of some of the victims of the graveyard shift in Murder Capital U.S.A. The victims are not just on the East Side; they are on our side. The story doesn’t just start tonight; it’s been going on for more than a year. The victims are not only our murdered neighbors. The victims are neighbors who are afraid to answer their doors, neighbors traumatized by machine-gun fire in their front yards, neighbors violated by burglars having been in their bedrooms, neighbors angry at kids who are angry and who throw rocks, neighbors withdrawing from the neighborhood they live in, a neighborhood that is increasingly the domain of dangerous strangers. I came here tonight to tell you this, hoping that you do not deny the problem, or its consequences, or its solution. When a neighbor is bleeding on the pavement, you don’t ask whether he can pay for the treatment, you don’t say you’ll have to think about it for a while, you don’t reach for excuses, and you don’t consider his suffering another form of entertainment.