By Barney Blakeney
I write little notes to myself to remind me of stuff. As I get older I don’t depend on memory as much anymore, although I still have a pretty good memory. It’s a gift that’s allowed me to work this newspaper gig. When I started reporters didn’t have voice or video recorders. The tools of the trade were good notes and a sharp memory. So I write everything down. Thumbing through a note pad recently I saw a post that said ‘cameras don’t make communities safe, resources that serve communities make them safe.’
I’ve got this thing about surveillance cameras. They’re good for catching crooks, but not preventing crimes. Sure there’s the thing about crooks knowing they’re being watched being a deterrent, but I’m seeing crooks commit crimes knowing they’re being filmed. Some just don’t give a damn. A few years ago a guy in North Charleston blew another guy’s brains out while being filmed by surveillance cameras. Again, the camera positively identified the culprit, but at that point the deed had been done.
Recently some 125 cameras were donated on Charleston’s Eastside where four of the city’s 12 homicides occurred last year. There were 55 homicides in the Charleston County last year. As usual, North Charleston led the way with 30 homicides. Black males comprised 44 of the county’s homicide victims while Black females comprised eight of the county’s homicide victims. People, that is slaughter!
I do homicide wrap-up stories pretty much every year. I took a look at the story I wrote for the 2017 homicide wrap-up. There were 35 homicides in the City of North Charleston in 2017, 52 in Charleston County. As the number of cameras that proliferates our communities increase, the rate of the slaughter appears to be constant. A few years ago I talked with then Charleston County Sheriff Office Chief Deputy Mitch Lucas who said, “We can’t arrest our way out of this!”
Okay, so if we can’t arrest our way out of crime and violence, and cameras only MAY serve as deterrents, what’s the next best option? I’m going with that post-it note I recently found – resources that serve our communities.
Am I the only one who sees a relationship between the perpetually low performing schools serving Black communities and the number of criminals produced in those communities? North Charleston has one of the highest concentrations of Black residents in the county, its highest rate of homicides and most of its low performing schools. There is a lot that constitutes resources that serve communities, but let’s start there.
It seems reasonable to me that kids with good quality educations have better opportunities and make better choices. A good education usually equates to better economic opportunities. Mt. Pleasant has some of the county’s best schools. The town experienced only one homicide in 2019.
A quality education also usually equates to better job opportunities. Consistently the rate of unemployment for Blacks in the Charleston/North Charleston metro area doubles that for whites. And ‘The State of Racial Disparities in Charleston County, South Carolina 2000-2015” released in 2017 by Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston reported in 2015 the median income for a white family in Charleston-North Charleston was about $65,000. The median income for Black families however was only about $30,000. It also reported that the unemployment rate among Blacks in Charleston County was about 9 percent while unemployment among whites in the county was three percent.
Both Charleston and North Charleston last year elected mayors to new four-year terms in office. I say we hold them and their administrations accountable for providing some of the resources that serve Black communities which would address crime prevention. Elected officials are quick to tell us how they have to ‘stay in their lanes’; that some responsibilities don’t fall under municipal jurisdictions. Poppycock, I say! The residents of their cities are their constituents. They have a responsibility for those constituents’ that encompass education, employment recreation and everything else that contributes to their quality of life
In my opinion surveillance cameras have a place in crime prevention, but they are no substitute for the resources that produce safe communities.