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Editorial: ‘It can erupt anywhere’

Sadly ironic, isn’t it, that shootings take place in Salisbury in the same week when a crew is in town filming for a TV series called, of all things, “Shots Fired.”

So far, police say they know of no connection between Monday evening’s shooting of two men at the corner of West Monroe and South Craig streets and a Tuesday morning shooting into a house on Newsome Road. Later Tuesday, Salisbury High was on lockdown for an unspecified threat. Even if these are all random events, collectively they set an unsettling tone.

The beat goes on in Salisbury. A man was killed and his brother was shot behind J.C. Price American Legion Post in early March, and no arrests have been made. The surviving brother is not cooperating with police, Sheriff Kevin Auten told the Salisbury Rotary Club on Tuesday. Meanwhile, other relatives are upset that the crime remains unsolved. Is the lack of cooperation a matter of not trusting local officers, Auten asked, or is the street culture so strong that witnesses and victims would not tell anyone in law enforcement regardless of who they were?

Auten was not casting blame about dealing with city violence. “It can erupt anywhere,” he said. The question is, “How do we break that code?”

No one has the answer, but lots of people are working on offering programs to help youths to give them hope and set them on a positive path — Communities in Schools, Crosby Scholars, children’s theater and music programs, the YMCA, Man Up Monday, several tutoring programs and more. School resource officers also help. There’s a big push to prevent young people from turning to gangs in search of support, structure or something to do.

Solutions for adults are harder to come by, especially if they’ve been in trouble with the law. For someone looking for a job, a felony record is the equivalent of a scarlet letter, Auten said. “We got to do something different,” he said.

Gainful employment would go a long way toward keeping people out of trouble, but jobs are scarce. Meanwhile, the illegal drug trade is going strong, with meth and heroine almost displacing the more expensive cocaine and crack. People used to describe marijuana as the “gateway drug” that leads people to abuse stronger substances, Auten said. Now prescription painkillers play that role.

Salisbury has wonderful quality of life for people who can afford to enjoy the symphony, plays and brewery openings. For others, though, everyday existence is a struggle — a seemingly hopeless battle that can lead to violence and crime, and can hurt people who were not even involved. As long as witnesses refuse to tell police what they know, we’ll keep hearing the same thing — shots fired.

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