A New Year's resolution for the entire community

I'm very proud of our community, and celebrate the many positive things that make living in the greater Augusta metropolitan area very special.

Like many of you, I grow increasingly concerned about the number of crimes and acts of violence that continue to spread over our community like a plague. The number of murders alone -- not only in Augusta but in our surrounding communities, as evidenced by recent events in Thomson, Waynesboro, Aiken and so on -- is on the rise, and more than likely will have increased before this article is even read.

The magnitude of the problem is complicated by so many different kinds of social ills, too many to be counted, as well as an indifference of our society to stand up and say enough is enough. We have in our community enough resources -- financially, culturally, historically, medically, educationally, legally, emotionally, morally, ethically and physically -- to fight off this cancer eating away at our very core.

This is not a problem that can be limited by state or county lines. It can't be fought under limitations of interstates, highways or even the Savannah River. This is not a problem of one community or another, one neighborhood or another, one race or another, one religion or another. This is a problem that must be attacked by a united front of concerned citizens -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Republican, Democrat, independent, Tea Partier, single, married, gay, straight, rich or poor.

This is a war on terror in every sense of the word -- and just like we have provided the resources to fight this nationally and globally, we must invest in fighting it locally. This is what we do as Americans. We fight.

The first step is that we must all make it priority No. 1 -- every person, association and organization. Everyone from elected officials and community advocates to community leaders and everyday citizens must engage.

The second step is to organize and to put into place a strategic plan to fight crime in our community.

The third step is to invest. We need to give Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength what he needs to combat this problem. Public safety is non-negotiable, and cannot be limited to budget restraints. The potential growth of our community is in jeopardy if we do not.

The fourth step is to establish an authority or board to oversee the implementation of our efforts and a place for accountability.

I do not suggest I have all the answers, and I'm sure that there are many more ideas on how we may go about fighting this problem. I do know that we must unite and make every effort to make our community safe for our family, friends, loved ones and fellow citizens.

I will do all I can by bringing to the table all the entities in our community -- the major players, if you will -- for some open and honest discussion on how we might proceed. I wish to be only a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. I simply ask that each of you join me in making it a part of your New Year's resolution to stand up for our community by contributing in any way you deem beneficial and meaningful.

Our community can be no greater than what each of us is willing to sacrifice. I have seen over the past 20-plus years of living here how we can do exceptional things if we all work together.

(The writer is director of athletics at Augusta State University.)

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