It’s been a bad year for elections — we’re still suffering through the mess of the last one — and a bad year for disease, as a post-holiday coronavirus surge lies just around the corner.
Not incidentally, it’s also been a bad year for violent crime, particularly here in the Triad.
Greensboro Police Chief Brian James issued a statement on Monday addressing the rise of violent crime in the city, particularly homicides, which have risen starkly, from 44 in 2019 to 56 so far this year; 47 of the victims were Black people. That’s 84 percent.
Winston-Salem had 31 homicides in 2019. It was the most ever in the city. So far this year, there have been 26 homicides in Winston-Salem.
Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough has also addressed the rise in violent crime on his watch, pledging “saturation patrols” at Hanes Mall, which has seen several shootings this year.
Violent crime is on the rise nationally; the economic hardships, frayed nerves, generalized stress and frustration of the coronavirus era certainly contribute, but this is not a new problem.
Naturally, people look to law enforcement to “solve” this problem. But it’s time for us to realize that police themselves don’t stop violent crimes.
Homicides, for example, almost always happen between people who know each other. And aside from a few elaborate, carefully planned murder schemes, they almost always happen in the heat of a moment, either by accident or on purpose.
There’s nothing the police can do about that, or most other violent crimes.
They can document them. They can investigate, and occasionally resolve them. They can even exacerbate them. But increased policing by itself does not solve the problem of violent crime. And even the cops know this.
Chief James acknowledged as much in his statement: “While police are responsible for responding to violent crime, we as a community must address those factors that lead to violent crime. Many of those factors are rooted in access to employment, housing, education, healthcare and mental health care to name a few.”
Violent crime is a symptom of much deeper problems, ones that uniforms, squad cars and guns cannot touch. And applying law enforcement as a solution to socioeconomic problems does more harm than good.