Youth crime Residents should be alarmed

Published 12:01 am Sunday, January 30, 2011

Should we be alarmed? Has it reached the crisis level yet? Can anything be done?

Residents of Vicksburg and Warren County certainly should have taken notice last week when District Attorney Ricky Smith said just before the latest Warren County Grand Jury convened that “the vast majority” of auto burglaries and property crimes in the county were committed by young people.

Recognizing the problem is only part of the puzzle, however. The tricky part is finding a solution.

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It will take a team effort, a collaboration of law enforcement and the citizenry. It will take more neighborhood watches. It will take more people looking out for one another. It will take residents speaking up instead of cowering in fear.

• Residents must be diligent. Myriad reports in this newspaper contain the phrase “from an unlocked…” Locking a vehicle will not solve the problem, but it most assuredly is a deterrent to a would-be thief.

• Police need to continue to build relationships with the community. For one week a year leading up to National Night Out Against Crime, the community and police and deputies come together. That spirit, spearheaded by retired law enforcement officer Doug Arp, must be carried over throughout the year.

• Neighbors need to be neighbors again. Getting to know those who surround you and your belongings will better allow neighbors to know when something nefarious is occurring. Better neighbors make safer neighborhoods.

• Parents — or sadly, in many cases, the parent — must instill in children acceptable and law-abiding morals and values. Instead of making excuses for children, parents need to come down on the side of the better good for society, no matter what the consequences. There is a severe lack of respect for people and their property, not just here but nationwide.

• The courts must step up and send a message that this cannot continue. The courts must show that actions have consequences. Someone will have to be the example with harsh punishment, not a slap on the wrist.

Smith is vowing to make the latter a reality, saying, “These individuals are going to have to suffer the consequences of their actions. The public needs to know that their homes and their cars are secure.”

Unfortunately residents do not feel that way. Daily crime reports are filled with robberies and burglaries throughout the city and the county.

When the people have finally had enough, when they stand together to say enough is enough, then maybe the people will win the battle against youth thuggery.

Our future depends on it.