Two of our front page stories – profiling the new director at the Southeast Keizer Community Center and a vicious beating at an apartment complex less than a mile away – are tied by more than just geography.

The first illustrates a positive example of offering stability and a positive example in an area that, at least by Keizer crime standards, has more than its fair share of problems. The second illustrates the consequences of inaction, or when outreach efforts just aren’t enough.

The gang business does well in good times or bad, but their selling points for potential recruits – a sense of belonging, purpose and a chance to escape poverty – have more resonance during a recession. Consider that all of the young men involved were 21 years of age or less; one just turned 18 less than three months ago.

Teenagers and young adults have been hit particularly hard in the disrupted economy. Just 55.3 percent of those aged 16-29 are employed, which is down from 67.3 percent in 2000, according to an Associated Press analysis of U.S. Census data. The news organization also reports young black and Hispanic men without a college education suffered the most.

We surely don’t know how three young men came to show up at a Keizer apartment complex with hammer and shotgun in hand to deliver a peer a beating he’ll never forget. We also remember the good economic times, and know that gangs were appealing then.

But we see how groups like the Southeast Keizer Community Center are working to forge ties within the neighborhood – the same relationships and leadership-by-example that can deter a young person who’s on the fence about joining a gang and becoming a part of what that means.

Another faith-based organization is working to rent an apartment near where the beating took place. One of their aims is to build relationships and show children that police officers and others with a badge are not a threat.

We applaud their efforts and hope our emergency responders will do what they can to back them up. After all, cops and firefighters know better than anyone what an ounce of prevention is worth.

-JC