Thursday, May 10, 2012


No, that's not a real news headline. But it could be.

Dear Chief Public Safety Officer:

I’m writing as a concerned citizen of the city. I have absolute respect for your position as Chief of Police and I am grateful for the officers that are responsible for serving and protecting us. I have never been employed in law enforcement and do not even pretend to claim I know much about what it takes to do it day to day, so this is in no way any kind of an attempt to tell you how your job should be carried out. I fully realize I have no authority there. It is, however, the view from my own eyes and personal experience over the last couple of months, and especially in the last couple of weeks that I want to share with you. I know in my own life sometimes a perspective different than my own is often elusive until I’m prompted or invited to consider it by someone who is not in my regular circle of contacts. That’s mostly what I’d like to do; invite you to stand in my shoes for just a bit. There are a couple of dimensions to it, so please hear me out to the end.

Saturday my husband was outside doing yard work. I was inside the house at the front door, just about to step outside too. We both heard several shots of gunfire and subsequently saw a car speeding down the street. My husband was standing close enough to hear the profanity that one of the men in the car was shouting as they sped by. From where I stood, I saw two different neighbors run from their yards toward their houses as soon the shots were fired. My husband headed to our front door too.

A few minutes later there were patrol cars in the street. We stepped back outside to watch and listen. We heard a couple of reports with a few details about what had taken place. In about an hour, the patrol cars were gone and we and the neighbors went back to our yard work. We went back to our lives as usual, but honestly, it was anything but “usual.” It is far from “normal” to pray prayers of thanksgiving that my husband didn’t catch a stray bullet as he raked leaves.

There was a similar incident two weeks ago in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon. Shots fired followed by a car speeding by our house. Same house fired on. Different getaway car.

Prior to that there were two (maybe three) other incidents of gunfire also just down the street. I can only assume that maybe the same house was somehow involved. Those were all at night. All of that has taken place in just the last month or two. I can only assume that based on experience that until something changes, it will only happen again.

Adding a second dimension to my issue, let’s go back to this past Saturday. Later that day when we finished up our yard work, we sat on our front porch to relax. The peacefulness was interrupted by extremely loud motorcycles racing down the street that runs behind our house. That happens frequently. Partly in jest and yet with a bit of seriousness, my husband and I both wondered out loud where those patrol cars were now. [Not only is that street often used for a raceway, it is also a thoroughfare and short cut for cars and pedestrians. I do not know any statistics for traffic incidents there, I just know there are a lot of fast moving vehicles, people walking, and children playing. In short, dangerous.]. But alas, the roar of those engines went back and forth for a while and eventually faded out as they drove on.

Seldom do we see patrol car presence on our street until after a 9-1-1 call is made. Which, typically, I suppose is normal. I guess most people would be suspicious and paranoid if they saw a patrol car on their street without some kind of incident going on. The place I do see patrol cars on a regular basis is parked a couple of miles away. I know they’re there to deter the speeders where the speed limit is 30. I travel that road at least twice a day, sometimes 4 to 6 times a day. There is seldom ever more than one other car besides mine on that road at any given time. I see a patrol car parked there about once a week. We saw one there Sunday on our way home from church. It occurred to me then, that since they’re there so often that it must be a police priority. It’s their “normal.” If officers are parked and positioned where it’s highly likely that they will see speeders, why not on the street where I live? Police presence there might also change what’s happening on the street where I live.

From where I stand, seeing what I see, it is my opinion, humble as it may be but still very much carefully considered, that it the ideal would be to have the police “normal” be where law enforcement presence would be more effective in stopping shooters and speeders both. Not just speeders.

The third and possibly more personal-yet-public dimension to all of this is my employment. I work for our county economic development office. It is the responsibility of our office to promote our county to prospective businesses and industries. It is my job to represent all the positive things about our county which, truly, is not a hard thing to do. I must also be able to provide accurate information about the negatives and hopefully provide potential solutions and steps we’re actually taking to work on those negatives. Less than a week ago as part of my job responsibilities, I drove someone around giving them a quick tour of our sites, buildings, and assets. They were from another county in the state. They had heard and read all the bad press about the crime in our city and they asked me about it. They were aware that the press mostly favored headlining bad news and optimistically wanted to know my own personal experience with crime in the city. How do I answer that? While, again thankful to God that I have not been a victim of a crime lately, I have seen it firsthand. On the street where I live. Repeatedly.

While these crimes have not been inflicted on me personally, it still affects me personally. It affects how I live. It affects my work. I know we’ll never be able to eliminate crime completely. I understand the nature of evil in this world. I do, however, believe there must be a way to keep it from happening the same way in the same place over and over again. I also believe in the good that’s in this world too and because of that I’m willing to help. I believe something absolutely needs to change. I just have no idea what to do. What, just what, do I do? ?

Mrs. Does-This-Happen-On-The-Street-Where-YOU-live?