Crime problem has deep roots

Published 7:07 pm Friday, May 20, 2022

Law enforcement is expected – unfairly, in our view – to have quick solutions when violent crime flares as it has in Suffolk in recent months.

As much as we appreciate the resolve of the police chief and mayor to get it under control, we also acknowledge the complexity of the problem they are addressing, and urge patience from the citizenry.

The truth is that the causes of street violence are mostly systemic and more effectively addressed on the front end than by police after a tragedy has occurred.

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Post-pandemic stress – compounded now by soaring inflation that has many families wondering whether they’ll make it to the next paycheck – surely is a factor in the recent crime wave. Two years of lockdowns and other disruptions to daily routines frayed nerves and fractured relationships. A sense of community – already under assault in a society that values technology over personal relationships – eroded further during COVID-19 as church and community activities ground to a halt. In many ways, we forgot how to get along.

While we won’t second guess in this space the federal monetary assistance for families and businesses during the pandemic, most economists agree that the influx of cash was a major contributor to the highest inflation America has seen in a half-century. The cost of groceries and other essentials has strained household budgets to the point that many low-income people are looking for a way out – whether drugs or alcohol to ease their anguish or to make a quick buck. As has been the case for a long time, the illicit drug trade is a major driver of violence.

That’s a lot for a community – and especially a police force – to get its arms around. We commend Police Chief Al Chandler for steps taken already, such as increased patrols in neighborhoods like East Washington Street, where much of the recent spate of homicides and other shootings has occurred. And Mayor Mike Duman, to his credit, has vowed that Chandler’s force will have the resources it needs to do its job, even if City Council must tap cash reserves.

Still, taxpayers could never provide enough money to stop violence with officers on every street around the clock. The problem is far too deep. Our hope and prayer is for a collective healing of hardened hearts and a realization by its perpetrators that violence is never the answer to life’s problems.