Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Once again, crime has the Capitol City in disarray. Like so many others in Jackson, Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon was robbed outside her home on June 9. The robbery occurred in broad daylight, a bold move by another dumb criminal, who authorities say they have arrested.
A little over a week later, an innocent, 12-year-old boy was killed in an act of senseless violence. On June 19, young Joseph Spencer became another victim in what seems to be a losing fight against crime in Jackson. No one has been charged for this murder, though the police say they have suspects. To make matters worse, it seems the losers who killed him shot into the wrong house.
There has been big talk in Jackson about crime for as long as I could remember, even when crime was going down. Now, communities throughout the city are buzzing about the need to change our city. While Police Chief Shirlene Anderson issues two-page crime memos she calls "crime-fighting plans," violent crime rose 42 percent last year. While Mayor Frank Melton takes reporters on a tour of surveillance cameras, the children he has vowed to "save" are being killed in their homes. Everyone agrees that we need more police on the street, but the administration has not brought forward a plan to actually get this done.
The bold robbery of Barrett-Simon, the tragic death of an innocent child and our weariness with violent crime speak louder than any of these endless "crime-fighting" conversations. We take incidents like these as signs.
First, we see that the problem is going to get worse before it gets better. The people who are breaking the law feel that they have the upper hand. They are carrying themselves in a ruthless manner because it is becoming more difficult to apprehend, arrest and convict these people for their heinous crimes.
Second, there are not enough officers, and the officers we do have are generally disorganized and demoralized. Some long-time residents of Jackson may recall a time when police officers walked the neighborhood, talking to the people on their beat. Police officers were a real part of the community then. Today, it seems the police only come to certain neighborhoods (mainly those with high crime) after another senseless murder has taken an innocent life. We will have no hope of preventing crime as long as the police just scramble from crime to crime, arriving after the damage has already been done.
It's time we stop talking and do something about this problem ourselves. We all want to live in safe communities, but few of us are putting in the work necessary to get us there. Most of us who live in the inner city of Jackson know the people in the neighborhoods who cause chaos and create fear, yet we do nothing. We see the same car drive recklessly up and down the street, but we never write down the license plate number to give to the cop working the beat. We ride past the street corners, witness the illegal activities, but we never call our precinct to report the crimes. There needs to be some sort of action taken by people all over Jackson, even those living in "quiet, peaceful" communities. Crime is a citywide problem, and we all suffer from it every day, even when it does not touch us directly.
A major challenge in reducing crime in the inner city is that no one wants to be a snitch. It seems as if urban society has embraced the idea that reporting a crime is an injustice, that it harms the community by enabling oppressive police. "Stop Snitching" has become something of a chic campaign for criminals all over the country, and stores in larger cities have started selling "Stop Snitching" T-shirts and hats.
This idea is only adding to the destruction of our inner cities. Rodney Thomas of Harlem started the campaign, supposedly to combat corrupt confidential informants and shady plea deals from criminals eager to sell out others in order to save themselves. Although this may have been the intent, the message has now mutated into the idea that no one should ever report any crime of any kind to the police. Through peer pressure and the threat of reprisals from criminals, people in our most crime-ridden neighborhoods have essentially abandoned the fight, leaving the worst of the worst to rule our communities.
The hoodlums of Jackson couldn't care less about your position in the community, your age or your politics. In fact, they don't care about you at all, and they don't have the right to make any kind of "moral" stand about reporting their crimes to the police.
We like to pretend that we can ignore these men and their actions right up to the point that they impact us personally. We ignore it until we're deeply saddened by the death of innocent children. We ignore it until it blows up in our faces.
If we want to make a difference, let's start by being brave. We can no longer expect Melton to ride in on his white horse and save our city—if he does, we now know we better get out of the way or risk getting trampled. We can't wait for Chief Anderson to present a real crime plan, and we can't wait for City Council to argue over its merits when she finally does. We have to start making a difference now by reporting on suspicious activities in our communities and doing all we can to help the police catch those who need to be locked behind bars. By doing so, you just might save someone's life, possibly even your own. But you will certainly improve your community, and maybe, in the end, the city of Jackson.
I couldn't agree more. It's up to us to make a difference.
BTW, did you see Tyler Perry's "Daddy's Little Girls"? The underlying theme of the community fighting back was something that everyone needs to see.