A good backup plan

Published 7:53 pm Saturday, August 21, 2010

One of the important lessons that Suffolk is learning from a rash of violence that has claimed three lives within the past eight months or so is that an engaged community is a vital crime-fighting tool.

Clearly parents need to be strong and positive influences in their children’s lives to try to keep them from turning to crime, and young people need to take responsibility for their own actions. But the efforts of people who live in a community to improve it also can play an important role in the fight against crime of all sorts. It’s the underlying principle behind Neighborhood Watch, behind CrimeLine and behind the National Night Out.

In fact, all three of those initiatives have been put to work with some measure of success in Suffolk, and the successes of all three should help reinforce their value to the community.

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Neighborhood watches in Lake Kennedy and other areas of Suffolk have given neighbors a way to watch out for each other and to call police when they believe they’re seeing suspicious activities. National Night Out has given neighborhoods a way to come together and neighbors a chance to get to know each other, thereby increasing the likelihood that they’ll watch out for each other. And CrimeLine has provided Suffolk residents a way to anonymously report to police what they know about crimes that already have taken place.

CrimeLine, in fact, has been credited with helping to uncover the gang connections in a string of violent felonies that took place in Suffolk, Chesapeake and Portsmouth in recent years. Federal prosecutors have been busy in recent months securing guilty pleas and long prison sentences for the eight gang members who were arrested in the sweep that finally followed that CrimeLine tip.

Keeping crime out of Suffolk obviously begins at home. But it is good to know that there are some successful programs in place that a proactive community can take advantage of when parents fail to do their jobs or when even the best parenting fails.