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Editorial: It’s time to declare war

Police can’t do the job alone. It’s time for all the people of Salisbury to declare war on crime.

Police are looking for a “person of interest” in the Friday night shooting of 28-year-old Demareo O’Bryan Bost of East Spencer, the city’s first killing of 2017. Meanwhile, a disturbing string of crimes has taken place in recent days — including an armed robbery in a college dorm and a minivan pierced by crossfire at midday. In another incident, a man was stabbed as he stopped a thief from stealing his car. If the man hadn’t pulled a gun on his attacker, the story could have ended very differently.

What is happening to our city? The December murder of 7-year-old A’yanna Allen felt like a turning point in the city’s battle with gun violence, and two  months passed without any murders. That may have been the result of poor aim rather than intent, though. Bullets have continued to fly.

Fate has fulfilled city naysayers’ prophecies — fate and a failure to see what was unfolding. Only a person in complete denial would say that Salisbury does not have a crime problem now.

No one has the answer because a complicated problem like this requires many answers. Here are a few:

A fully manned police force. Efforts to build better relationships between police and the community are hindered by the fact that officers are spread so thin. Salisbury is not alone in its struggle to find qualified candidates for its many job openings. The city should raise salaries and increase signing bonus to help attract new officers. An extra premium should be offered for veteran officers with experience fighting gangs.

More programs for youth. Let’s embrace the Boys & Girls Club that council member Kenny Hardin is working to establish — as well as the Power Cross program that a Statesville couple wants to bring here. We have good programs in place, but they are not enough. Too many young people are growing up in chaos, without family structure, good role models or moral support.

A task force to visit cities that have succeeded in bringing down crime. Police and City Council need constructive help. Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce could partner with the colleges and other stakeholders to make this happen, with heavy emphasis on including people from neighborhoods most affected by crime. The group would report back to the council and the community. The private sector must get involved.

This list could go on — neighborhood cleanup, education tailored to children in extreme need, spiritual outreach, jobs. Trust and cooperation. Parenting classes. Drug-addiction treatment. Prayer.

A determined group of citizens has pleaded with City Council month after month to do something. The speakers are frustrated and think no one is listening. In fact, the entire city hears their message. We agree — the time for downplaying crime is long past. Let’s get to work together on serious solutions.

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