By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published May 29, 2014 at 5:03 AM Photography:

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The guy who was arrested in the playground shooting last week of 10-year-old Sierra Guyton is 18 years old and has been arrested 15 times.

Fifteen arrests! Eighteen years old! It almost sounds like some kind of joke or something.

This is all so very familiar to me.

Back in 1984 I was the director of communications for the Milwaukee Public Schools. One evening a girl was sitting at a kitchen table doing homework with her grandmother when a bullet came through the window and killed her. She was 10. They never found the guys who did it.

I remember going to a meeting, I think it was at the old Garfield School, two days after the shooting. There were bunch of community activists and politicians and the new Chief of Police, Robert Ziarnik, there. Everybody vowed that this would never again happen in this community again.

I can’t begin to count the number of times there have been rallies to end the violence. And nothing ever comes of those rallies. People light candles, talk about how angry they are, they march, they pledge to form block watch programs and how they will keep kids off the street.

And still, two gang-bangers, one an 18-year-old with 15 arrests to his name, open up on a playground and almost kill another 10-year-old girl.

If you ask me, all the talk, all the pledges, all the block watch groups aren’t really worth a hill of beans. Neither is locking up a higher percentage of black men than any state in the union, by a large margin.

The budget for the corrections department is over $1 billion. I don’t think all those programs that try to help prisoners get back to society do much. Nearly 40 percent of released prisoners end up back in jail within three years of their release.

I also think the issue of a lack of jobs is too easy an answer. This is not really about hope and jobs, but about values.

Let’s also be honest that the perception is that it's in the black neighborhoods where the biggest problems are. 

"The overwhelming amount of crime in the city is in the central city on the North Side," said MPD Lt. Mark Stanmeyer. "There is a small pocket on the South Side, but it's not even close."

I think honest discussion about race is one step in helping to fix this obviously broken pattern of behavior. But if we are serious about breaking this cycle, there is one way to do it, but it will take a lot of guts.

Get every 2-year-old in Milwaukee into school and keep them there. Do it year-round. Hire teachers and get buildings and get to these kids early, get them interested in learning. If parents don’t put their kid in school, make it a municipal citation. Every parent has to take a class in how to help your kid at home. I’m not sure about uniforms, but I can be persuaded either way.

That would do it. We would raise a generation of kids who would understand and embrace the fact that there is more to life than life on the streets.

We would still have the problem of the kids like the Mr. 15 arrests, 18 years old. But at some point we need to focus on what we can really do. Nothing is going to change that kid. We need to be able to bite the bullet and write that kid off.

I can’t begin to fathom how much all of this would cost. But whatever it is, we need something drastic. Otherwise the cost to our city will eventually overwhelm all of us.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.