EDITORIAL: Combating crime takes all of us

Jul. 11, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

Engage our youth. Impose tougher sentences. Pray.

Even if they disagree on the remedy, locals recognize that something is broken in Sanford. What else can they conclude when a spate of recent gun violence is disturbing, but not really shocking? When The Herald's Facebook commenters are so exasperated by news of the latest incident, one poster could only exclaim, “Stop shooting each other! This is ridiculous!”

If only it were as simple as saying enough is enough. But our community has a multi-faceted problem that's going to take an equally aggressive effort to fix.

Observers point to multiple factors — most of which come into play. Yes, giving our youth more ways to occupy themselves wouldn't hurt. Parents and guardians should be held more accountable. It's true that offenders are finding their way back to the streets far too easily.

For proof of the last point, consider the case of 20-year-old Marquise Laurice Wilson, who allegedly committed a drive-by shooting on Courtland Drive earlier this month.

The extraordinary part? The crime was committed while Wilson was out on bail in connection with another, similar shooting less than two weeks earlier.

In an interview with the Herald, Lee Sheriff Tracy Carter said judges could help law enforcement by supporting high bond amounts for such such acts of violence. No doubt — our courts have a responsibility to impose appropriate sanctions for the protection of law-abiding citizens.

And Carter is right about something else, too: “It will take the entire community to effectively deal with this problem.”

But like removing a weed and leaving the root, merely stepping up patrols and filling our jail with offenders won't address the source of Sanford's malaise.

Our residents, youth in particular, need alternatives to a violent lifestyle. If they can't find fulfilling work, a sense of belonging, educational and recreational opportunities, or anything else that trumps firing a gun to fill their time, we shouldn't be surprised when they run afoul of the law.

Every candidate seeking office of late has summed up Sanford's greatest need in one word — jobs. Economic activity is at the core of prosperous, safe and well-educated communities. Some bright spots have appeared lately in this regard — particularly an investment commitment from GKN Driveline — and resources like Central Carolina Community College continue to prepare our citizens for the 21st century workforce.

But clearly, we shouldn't look upon the whole picture and be satisfied — not when Lee County's latest unemployment figure shows 8.5 percent of our population out of work. The newly formed Partnership for Prosperity will be at the forefront of the effort going forward to rev our area's economic engine.

And what can we ordinary citizens do? Get involved. If it surprises you to know that Lee County has a Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, learn what it does. If you care deeply about this issue, support groups that are making a difference — like the Boys and Girls' Clubs, or the still-developing Police Athletic League and Inspire and Motivate Our Future. How about starting a new organization, or committing a few hours a week to mentoring?

None of us can reclaim our city by ourselves — but we can all do something.