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Declining Crime! Say What?
11/26/2014 4:12:06 PM

By Barney Blakeney

After reading reports of declining crime in the local area I had to ask myself where the heck are those folks getting their information. From where I sit, crime is on the upswing.

As a crime reporter for all the years I’ve been in this business, since 1977, I’ve seen a lot of crime. Although I do other stuff, the police beat still is my stomping ground. It’s where I cut my teeth as a reporter.

I continue to get regular reports from local police agencies. Maybe that’s why I don’t see the decline.

I’ve also been taught how to look at stories from some of the area’s best editors - Jim French, John All, John Burbage, Steve Mullens, Mac McDougall, Bill Collins - those guys are good writers who each over the years gave me a little sumpin’ sumpin’.

One of them told me 100 deaths is a statistic, one death is a tragedy. I learned to look at each story from that perspective. When I write crime stories, I see individuals.

So over the past few weeks as the FBI reported fewer violent crime in local communities, I reeled from what I’ve been seeing and what I know is the heavy cost of crime in human terms.

The FBI released its report on violent crime about two weeks ago stating that the incidents declined over last year for most communities. At the same time the City of North Charleston saw five shooting incidents in four days. The youngest victim was an 11-year-old boy going to a trash can in his backyard. How does that happen?

The kid was among the lucky ones, he wasn’t killed. Violent crimes in North Charleston have resulted in 20 homicides so far this year. Heck, there only were 13 homicides in the city in all of 2013! That’s 20 families which have lost someone they love.

Two more people were killed this past weekend. Their deaths continue a tragic trend that began New Years Day when three women were gunned down in their homes. The rest of the year just got worse.

By March North Charleston had seen five murders in 14 shooting incidents. In one period between March 14 and March 28 there were five shooting incidents. And last summer’s incident that left a 16-year-old boy dead on his bicycle at a street corner near Azalea Drive still goes unsolved.

Ultimately, its all about how safe one feels. I spent some of the most important years of my childhood living in North Charleston. I lived there for 10 years during the decade of the 1990s. I was raised to be mindful of my surroundings. I look over my shoulders while walking at night. It’s a hulluva way to live, but it’s brought me through all these years.

The other night I was in my old neighborhood. Although I was on well-lighted Rivers Avenue, I felt paranoid. I regretted not having an equalizer and couldn’t wait to get off the street. But the reality is, carrying a weapon doesn’t make you any safer. North Charleston police in 2013 made 254 arrests for gun violations. That was some 30 more arrests than in the previous year. Charleston police made arrests in 168 incidents last year.

Lest I give the impression North Charleston is the most dangerous place in the local area. Let’s not forget Charleston is not without its issues.

I was in the Market area the other night and all I could think of was being careful on those back streets where there’s the best possibilities of finding parking. I wasn’t packing, but my friend is reputed for keeping hers with her. She made me feel a lot safer.

I had an earlier talk with Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon about guns and violent crime. Cannon maintains that most guns are owned by law abiding citizens for a host of different reasons. About illegally possessed guns he said, “We can’t do anything about illegal aliens. How can we do anything about illegal firearms?”

He added, “The issue is why people resort to violence in the first place. We have to look at behavior and the psychology involved rather than some inanimate object. When we arrest someone for DUI numerous times it’s not the car’s fault.”

I think that’s how we need to look at decreasing violent crime. We can play tricks with the numbers, but every violent crime or homicide is a tragedy even if it’s only one. We can’t afford to lull ourselves into some false sense of security when violent crime can touch any of us at any time.

I recently got a reminder from Cannon’s office about the unsolved Oct. 25, 2011 murder of five-year-old Allison Griffor, killed as she slept at her Pierpont community home. Someone police feel were at the wrong house shot through the door killing her in bed.

Crime only will decline when we as a community we do what must be done to properly educate all our citizens and provide them the opportunities that give their lives meaning and value.

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