Kenneth L. Hardin: An offer of glue for city’s gun violence crisis
Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 18, 2022
I’m an animal lover, so I hesitate to beat a dead horse on the crime and gun violence crisis in this little historic slice of marginal Heaven. With the way my phone and computer rings and dings constantly due to the abundance of contemptuous violators of all that is good, decent and lawful, I’m going to keep exercising the arm motion until I have enough glue to piece this city safely back together.
It’s not that Herculean of a task to make Salisbury safe again. We just need professional politicians to stop playing politics with residents’ lives, community culture hustlers masquerading as so-called leaders to give up trying to get their name in the paper and a key to the city, and the police to be fully engaged with the community and not just when you need to fill seats for a community conversation. You can’t be distant and unwilling to show concern, courtesy and respect until there’s a PR opportunity attached to it. Our elected officials are more concerned with protecting the image of the City and certain elitist demographics than addressing the issue. They fail to realize they’re contributing directly to its demise. There’s an African Proverb that says people who don’t feel connected to the village will burn it down just to feel its warmth. The heat so many residents share with me is apathy, contempt, isolation and feeling unwoven into the fabric of this city. Instead of pouring salt on these folks and criticizing their response to feeling disenfranchised, get some needle and thread and sew them back into the improvement process.
After my words flowed out from this page last week, it evidently struck a nerve while parading around in the consciousness of those who are always looking to challenge but never offer solutions. I was challenged on how I would address all the shoot ‘em up-bang-bang going on. Challenge accepted. I asked Google a simple question to ensure it wasn’t any personal bias before I laid out my strategies, “Is Salisbury, NC a safe city?” I received two responses within 0.76 seconds. Maybe I wasn’t the only one who’s asked the good folks that question. The all-knowing Google responded, “With a crime rate of 41 per one thousand residents, Salisbury has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes — from the smallest towns to the very largest cities. One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 24. According to safehome.org, Salisbury is ranked No. 21 among the safest North Carolina cities. While based on a compilation of a number of stats from various sources including the FBI, neighborhoodscout.com ranks Salisbury at No. 78 on the list of most dangerous cities in the U.S.”
I’ve worked with data for over 20 years, and understand how easily it can be manipulated to defend a position. I don’t need an algorithm or a fallible data analyst to convince me this city has a problem. I just answer my phone and listen to the fear and concern.
I don’t have access to the resources our failed leaders have had for the past three decades, so it’s easy to dismiss my solutions. At least I’m willing to offer some. I detest those who would rather come up with five reasons a solution won’t work instead of finding one reason why it might. I’ve seen so-called leaders stifle and diminish creative solutions simply because of philosophical differences, personality conflicts, or it didn’t originate from them or someone who controls them.
The first strategy I would implement is combine the city and county law enforcement agencies into one to ensure better and consistent coverage. In high crime areas with an inordinate amount of gun violence, install cameras and monitor illegal activity 24/7. In those same areas, set up entry and exit control checkpoints and randomly search vehicles. I suggested this to the Mayor a few years ago and was asked what if we stopped the child of a prominent citizen? I responded they shouldn’t be in a known high crime area.
People are quick to dismiss a gun buyback program, but desperate times call for desperate measures. We can either retrieve guns one at a time after each murder or work to get them off the street in larger quantities. With the number of homeless occupying areas where no one wants them, why not give them a stipend to roam the city and clean up the same streets they live on? There should be a mandatory and strongly enforced curfew for anyone under 18 years old after 10pm. Police officers should be required to live where they work, and receive financial incentive to do so.
If you don’t have a workable solution to offer, Shhhh again.
Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.