It’s just past the middle of May; half of the year hasn’t arrived yet. In the city of my birth, just twenty miles north and a bit east of where I’m sitting, eighty-five people have been shot and/or killed so far and there’s no sign that there will be an end in sight any time soon and I feel that as the weather gets hotter, aggression will escalate and more people will be shot and/or killed.
The police are in way over their heads and have been for the longest time; they’ve been so busy trying to enact community policing policies that consistently prove that said policies aren’t helping communities very much. Even with the addition of technology that can detect gunshots and direct officers to the area, it’s like closing the barn door after the cows have already split. Manpower issues keeps the police in a reactive mode and prevents them from being more proactive; an article referencing the latest shooting/murder said that people in the city are too afraid of reprisal if they say something about these shooting and an older resident said that there was a time in the city where there were cops actually and literally walking a beat on the city streets with the occasional car rolling through to reinforce the police presence. Another resident said that until this latest shooting occurred, they hadn’t seen the police in the area for the longest time.
Even the various religious groups in the city seem to have given up trying to call for a permanent cease-fire and rallying city residents to take back their streets and take back the city from those who would rather this didn’t happen. The local media reports on these activities, interviews city leaders and it’s pretty much lip service: They know this is a problem of epidemic proportions without the CDC making that official and they keep talking about what needs to be done but they’re so busy squabbling over less important issues to actually do some of the shit they say needs to be done to keep the city residents safe which, by the way, is their sworn duty when they got elected.
The last two or three mayors were former police officers and one would think that such a person would be able to make a big difference because they, better than any other elected official, would know exactly what the police need to get the job done… but, no; the last mayor/former police office didn’t do a damned thing except get bent out of shape when Fox released news about a made-for-TV series based on the city that would expound on the city’s bid to become the murder capital of the United States. It hasn’t quite gotten there yet… but they’re high up on the list of most dangerous places to be and live. The current mayor fired the chief of police in a move that surprised a lot of people; that poor worthy hadn’t had the job for very long before he found himself replaced by a former chief of police from Chicago. I guess the thought was that if this guy managed to keep the number of shootings and killings down in the Windy City (and the numbers say that he did), he should be able to do this in a city that’s way smaller than Chicago. Whether or not the new chief is making an impact on anything since he took the job remains to be seen and until he can start doing whatever he can do, the number of shootings/killings are ramping up and almost as if the city doesn’t have a police department.
This constant siege is having an impact on the city’s ability to make money as tax paying residents and business literally get the hell out of Dodge; the city council has already voted to raise taxes while cutting back the city’s fire department which, as I recall, is the only fire department in the state that gets paid to keep the city from burning to the ground – all the others are volunteer fire companies. There was talk about having units of the state and county police join the city’s forces to increase presence and response but even the state and county police departments are suffering from their own number of available officers and the academy can’t seem to graduate new officers fast enough… or convince those who may be eligible to become police officers to sign up to put their lives on the line.
Like the state trooper that was murdered a short time ago, gunned down in the line of duty while investigating a suspicious vehicle call. That killing made the national news and more so when the man who killed the trooper, after holing up in his parents’ home, decided – or realized – that he’d rather go out in a “blaze of glory” and commit an act of “suicide by cop” because he had to know that killing a police officer in this state is an automatic death sentence… and the state just recently voted to reinstate the death penalty.
I am a bit surprised that city officials haven’t imposed curfews; not quite martial law but a stop-gap method to attempt to control night-time movement on the streets during the times these shootings seem to occur… but they haven’t even considered that as far as anyone can tell. Maybe they have and the hapless people running the city can’t agree to do this and I can probably think of a couple of reasons why they aren’t, like, it would get in the way of their attempt to revive the waterfront district of the city and an efforts that’s being greatly affected because, um, people and businesses aren’t going to want to move into an area of the city that, technically, isn’t safe.
On Mother’s Day, when my baby sister and I visited with our mother, as we were leaving to head home, my sister said, “Okay, let me get to my car and get outta here before they decide to start shooting!” Linda and I were in full agreement with that assessment because, as I’ve mentioned before, my mother lives in a very bad part of the city and a part, until recent years, wasn’t a bad place to live.
People have cited the lack of jobs and other community services that used to exist as a source for this senseless violence; the escalation of drug use and trafficking has finally enveloped the city like a foul-smelling, moldy blanket and there’s little to be done about stemming the influx of crack and heroin coming in from the north and south of the state. Yeah, it’s a big money business and I suspect that the local major dealers are raking in more money than the city is. The state voted to decriminalize marijuana and, recently, tested a vote to legalize marijuana like Colorado and other states have done because, in my opinion, they’re late to the party and late in realizing that if we do what Colorado has done, the revenue generated could be a near unimaginable windfall. Whether that vote actually succeeds or not remains to be seen and while legalizing and controlling the sale of marijuana will put a serious dent in the operation of those who make their money selling it on the street, it’s not going to do much for the sale of crack and heroin but maybe, just maybe, some of the city’s growing OK Corral behavior will slack off because some local weed dealing ain’t trying to blow someone away over the price of a dime bag anymore. Maybe it’ll push these particular dealers somewhere other than here, somewhere where their black market sales haven’t been cut by legalization of their product… or it just might get them to abandon this venture and make them move up to crack and heroin sales; even they’re smart enough to know that if the state legalizes and controls marijuana sales, they’re not gonna be able to compete with the variety and quality of the weed a state-controlled operation would insist upon.
But all of this is somewhere down the line and the police need to get to doing more to put an end (or some reasonable facsimile) to these shootings, even if it means they stop merely rolling through an area in their black and whites and actually get back to walking the streets in force and let the people they’re tasked to protect see them doing some protecting and serving.