Renee C. Scheidt: What’s gone wrong here?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 27, 2022

By Renee C. Scheidt

As a child growing up in Rowan County, I was always glad I lived here and not there — “there” being the big city of Charlotte.

Our family listened to the nightly news with disbelief as we heard of the robberies, murders and other violent crimes just down the road. We lived in a place where that kind of horror didn’t happen much. We didn’t even lock our doors at night. We left the car keys in our vehicles parked in the yard. We opened windows when we went to bed during hot summer nights (air conditioning was something most of us country folks didn’t have). We did all of this without giving it a second thought, unafraid of being harmed. We lived in a good, safe place very unlike the big city 45 miles away.

Back then, every family I knew had guns in their home. Many of the guys I went to school with at West Rowan had their rifles on a gun rack in the back of their pick-up trucks. We weren’t scared that guns were easily available and prominently displayed. In fact, it gave us a sense of security. Everyone knew better than to use them carelessly. They were for hunting and protection, not senseless shooting of others. A look at the murders on record back in the ’60s and early ’70s proves this to be true.

Things have certainly changed in Salisbury since my childhood years. It hurts to admit that the horrible crimes that previously only happened in big cities are now right here at our doorstep. Just several weeks ago, the unthinkable happened. During an annual high school basketball tournament that has been a tradition for decades, two innocent boys were shot by two young teens during half time at the Catawba gym.

We sit here and shake our heads as we hear about all the senseless shootings in big cities like Chicago every weekend, the FBI’s most recent data shows that Salisbury’s crime rate is much higher than the national average. In case that doesn’t sink in, let me repeat that: statistics from the FBI state Salisbury is among of the more crime-ridden cities in the country percentage wise.

This should shock every law abiding citizen of Rowan County. No wonder our town has the nickname “Shotsbury.” Why would anyone looking to move to North Carolina even consider a town with such alarming statistics? Isn’t safety at the top of the list when choosing a place to live? If a person isn’t safe, then it doesn’t matter how nice the parks are or what great shops and restaurants are available. When our next door neighbor, Cabarrus County, has a crime rating lower than the national average, which place would you choose to live?

Throw in our educational system, and the results only get worse, according to Rowan-Salisbury Schools rank 178 out of 243 total school districts in our state. That means 177 school districts throughout the state do better in educating their students than us. That’s not something to be proud of. Our nextdoor neighbor, Cabarrus County Schools, rank at the top of the list. Only 25 schools across the state do a better job than them.

These facts demand that the question be asked? Why can a county 20 miles down the road have a much safer community and better schools than us?

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not here to trash my home place. I am a product of the public school system and loved my schools. After living out of state for 22 years, I chose to come back home when I could have chosen any place. I want to be able to brag about my town and what a wonderful place it is to live and raise a family. But with facts like this in my face, what can I say?

What happened to the quaint town of my childhood to turn it into such a violent place with an educational system falling far short of near by cities? “Guns,” you may say. But guns don’t kill people any more than a knife or razor blade. People kill people. We’ve had guns since the country began, yet didn’t have this danger lurking on the streets.

Are our teachers not as good as those in other counties? Are they the reason our schools fall so far short? Not at all. I’m the proud parent of a public school teacher who works her tail off to do an outstanding job, just as her cohorts do. The problem lies somewhere else.

No doubt many contributing factors could be cited for these embarrassing facts. But here’s the bottom line: something has to change.

As we enter this next election season, it is imperative that we have leaders in place who can get results. We need a lot less talk and a lot more action. Whatever our leaders have been doing is not working.

Keep doing the same thing and we’ll keep getting the same results? If Cabarrus County can be a desirable place to live, then so can we. But until we get a hold on crime, and better performing schools, we’ll continue to be at the bottom of the barrel.

Renee C. Scheidt lives in Salisbury.