Don't surrender in war on crime

City can make a difference, but it should at least put forth the effort

It's as reliable and relentless as the calendar.

 

Every year at this time, we have breakfasts and such so we can tell our legislators what we want them to do for us up in Atlanta, and they can tell us with some precision how little the odds are of getting it.

That's never been truer than in the past few years, with so little money available for our wish lists.

This year, let's ask our legislators to attempt something that's actually doable: Do a little checking with law enforcement, with judges, with prosecutors and others in the know, and pass some laws that will help in the fight against crime.

This is something our Augusta city leaders should do as well. But certainly it should be No. 1 on Augusta's legislative agenda in Atlanta.

Unfortunately, Augusta Commissioner Jerry Brigham recently pooh-poohed the city's role in fighting crime, saying, "I certainly don't see any laws or anything we can do that might make crime go up or go down."

That represents a defeatist, narrow-minded approach -- to fighting crime or accomplishing anything else, for that matter. To just throw up one's hands at the start and say there's nothing that can be done -- well, there's no place for such negativity and fatalism in the ranks of leadership.

Of course more can be done, and should.

At the city level, for instance, Brigham is right that the sheriff's office is self-directing and commissioners have nothing to do with its management. But they hold the purse strings -- and anything the sheriff's office can do will necessarily involve matters of funding.

Moreover, how can Mr. Brigham sit there and say nothing will make a difference? How can you know until you try? And if some people are willing to sit like stumps and watch the robberies go by, others are not. There's no telling what groups of like-minded people can think of to do that an individual might not.

That's why we hope Brigham's colleagues on the Augusta Commission will ignore his gloomy assessment and create a new task force on crime, as requested by citizen activist Clint Bryant on Tuesday. If nothing else, it could lead to better anti-crime coordination among law enforcement agencies, courts and policy-makers, as well as citizens and businesses.

But it's also likely it would come up with concrete action items. Are there new or innovative laws that could help the courts deal with gun violence? Are there things judges can do to help law enforcement? What can the Augusta Commission do to help Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength? What can churches, schools, businesses, civic groups and others do to pitch in?

One such glimmer of hope came Thursday: Mayor Deke Copenhaver has started a grant fund to establish neighborhood watches and fund existing ones. The grants will be set up through the Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area.

Still, you have to wonder if it was a miscalculation on Bryant's part to trust the Augusta Commission with his suggestion. The group couldn't even agree Tuesday to form the task force, sending it to a committee for discussion.

Let's hope the move is a sincere attempt to do it right; Bryant has been asked to come to the committee with more details. But the city's handling of another citizen's request for help last year -- Lori Davis' proposal for a chronic nuisance ordinance to deal with long-term neighborhood problems -- isn't terribly encouraging. That effort largely fizzled out after much consternation that only government can create.

Commissioners and Mayor Deke Copenhaver will now have to prove themselves worthy of Bryant's vision.

If they needed motivation -- other than the bloody 38 homicides from 2010 -- consider the case of the Wife Saver restaurant that closed recently on Highland Avenue after a November shooting there that injured an employee and reduced business traffic.

Crime is corrosive.

And yes, there's always more we can do.

 

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