Community Safety

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 Tammy Kister

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By Lydia Long PhD. | December 1, 2012

Communitysafety is a right and a quality of life issue in our community but, who isultimately responsible for crime in Abilene? Look in the mirror fellow Abilenians, we allare. Traditionally, the public has considered crime a problem ofthe police and the courts. Obviously,that isn’t working anymore. We have over2 million people in prison and jail, another 5 million on probation orparole. Odds are you know someone whohas been involved with the wrong side of the law. The courts are overcrowded and in many citiespolice departments are so shorthanded that you get ‘hold music’ when you call911. We are spending more money on thecriminal justice system than education or health care. Many neighborhoods have become gatedcommunities in an attempt to reduce and control crime and nationally the numberof private security personnel out number official law enforcement. {{more}} There are many factors that put people and areas at risk ofbecoming involved in crime and victimization. They include poverty and poorenvironment, poor parenting practices, family conflict and violence, earlysigns of aggressive behavior, spending too much time with friends and withoutadult contacts, doing poorly at school or dropping out, failing to learn good workskills or have employment opportunities, living in areas that lack services andfacilities, and having access to drugs. These factors place children at riskand affect their development from birth to adulthood. Increasingly research has shown that crime prevention andcontrol cannot be handled solely by the police and courts. Victims and offenders frequently come fromthe same background. Crime is not a “weagainst them problem.” It’s our problem, because quite frequently it’s ourfamily. The police do not ‘own’ thecrime problem. We own the problem. Citizens need to work together with Cityleaders, including the Mayor, City Council, Church leaders and our variouscommunity organizations. And how can City leaders help prevent crime beyond hiringmore police officers? First, they canstart by understanding the crucial role of political leadership in shapingpolicy and interagency cooperation. Second, recognize community safety as aright and an issue of the quality of life.Third, work horizontally as well as vertically across jurisdictional boundariesand finally, develop tools and measurements of success. Crime cannot be prevented solely by ourpolice, but must be addressed through a multi and inter agency approach. What can you do to help prevent crime? Share the responsibility. Get involved in your family, yourneighborhood, your city. If you are an organizationor church leader pick up the phone and talk with each other. Our City is a community and every person contributesto the crime problem. Don’t think for amoment that when you don’t pick up that phone to call in report a crime thatyou’re not involved. Don’t want to forma neighborhood crime watch? Just likenot saying anything when a racial epitaph is uttered, you’re condoning thebehavior. At what point is enough,enough? Look in the mirror and askyourself, ‘what can I do to make Abilenesafe? Who is responsible for crime in Abilene? We all are. We need to share the responsibility for thecrime problem and work together. Lydia M. Long, PhD. isan Adjunct Professor at McMurry University and Criminal Justice Consultant.