ONE OF THE problems with government is it often only wants to study a problem rather than solve it. When it comes to crime, real data are indeed vital to make the right decisions.

For Richmond, the time to gather information has passed and every day we wait proves more costly in terms of lives affected.

A real solution for Richmond's violence is made up of three interdependent pillars:

  • Create and strengthen violence-prevention programs to break the vicious cycle of crime.

  • Provide all the tools requested by police to implement responsive, community-oriented "smart" policing.

  • Revitalize neighborhoods and create a vibrant physical infrastructure for sustained economic growth.

    At the April 3 Richmond City Council meeting, I put forward a proposal, with the co-sponsorship of council members Thurmond and Sandhu, to go beyond researching crime.

    This proposal, unanimously approved by the City Council, created an Office of Neighborhood Safety and authorized the city manager to hire a director for this office whose full-time job will be to oversee programs aimed at breaking the cycle of violence.

    This person will coordinate the work of Richmond's many community-based organizations to support street-level services.

    The director will also work with "peacekeeper outreach teams" and mental health crisis specialists to pro-actively quell potentially explosive conflicts.

    I believe that if we in City Hall want our young people to take responsibility for their lives we must show a willingness to provide jobs, educational support, and services.

    Furthermore, with the city stepping up in a leadership role, Richmond becomes more likely to receive grant funding that can further support community programs that are poised for greater success.

    A case management approach such as this has shown real results in other cities and is long overdue here in Richmond.

    We know there are approximately 1,500 parolees and probationers in Richmond, and 50 percent of the parolees will go back to prison within two years. The statistics don't lie.

    Young men getting out of prison often come back to their place of origin without services, support or real supervision in many cases.

    If we know that crime happens under these circumstances and we do nothing, it's a set-up for failure. Intervening in the lives of young people with support programs and job access is of paramount importance.

    While there is no disagreement on the City Council regarding the need to advance the Office of Neighborhood Safety, there continues to be disagreement on other related policy directions.

    Some council members are convinced we need to divert money from revitalizing our neighborhoods to hire more police. The truth is that our police chief has received everything he has requested for hiring new officers.

    In fact, there is a scarcity of recruits available today throughout the Bay Area, as other police departments are competing for the same small pool of officers.

    The City Council's answer to crime has long been overly simplistic: "Hire more cops."

    Even our police agree this is not the long-term solution for crime in Richmond.

    At a recent meeting to discuss strategies for neighborhood revitalization, council members again insisted on invoking the "hire more police" mantra -- overlooking actual neighborhood revitalization, public input, reality and professional advice.

    Richmond is in a unique position to access a $100 million redevelopment bond for city infrastructure and community renewal.

    Unfortunately, there are proposals being presented that will undercut long-awaited neighborhood revitalization in favor of putting aside more money for police. This is unnecessary.

    There already is enough money for hiring as many police as Richmond can recruit this year.

    The people of Richmond understand that building communities is a long-term effort that takes large investments.

    Through leveraging the bond funds and the Office of Neighborhood Safety, we have such an opportunity. Let's not pretend that providing more funding for police hires, when recruits are scarce and unavailable, will magically cause more police officers to appear on our streets. Understanding this is key.

    With our overall city finances finally in the black, we are set on a new course for building a better Richmond, but only if we focus on real solutions.

    We should not let the perception of reducing violence become the focus by allowing millions of dollars to sit unused in a police-hiring account.

    Let us not shortchange our dreams with unrealistic proposals. I invite the public to share your views on this at the City Council goal-setting retreat Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Harbormaster's Building, 1340 Marina Way South.

    McLaughlin is mayor of Richmond.