Thursday, September 27, 2012

Talks about crime shouldn't be limited to the American Tobacco Trail

Officials in Durham, NC have been pulling hairs to find a way to improve safety on the American Tobacco Trail.  Wednesday’s attack of a woman walking on the trail was the 25th reported to police since the start of 2011.  Discussions involving what to do about crime brings to the forefront the difficulties related to having the conversation.
It’s hard to talk about crime. 
Police are quick to remind people not to make assumptions when facing a string of incidents in the same area.  People want to know if these crimes are “gang related”.  Are they part of an initiation rite? Should citizens be concerned about violent gang members who have marked the American Tobacco Trial as their territory?
Or, is this simply a case of young people engaging in activity that deserves a stay at the juvenile detention center?  We don’t want to minimize what is happening on the trail, but we don’t want people to overreact. 
It’s hard to talk about crime.
Conversations regarding crime shifts when the face of the victim changes.  When a series of crimes happen in North East Durham it doesn’t make it on the front page of the local newspaper.  The press fails to report it because it’s perceived as business as usual.  Sadly, crime is expected in those places with a high demographic of black and brown people. If walls could talk they would probably repeat conversations among people that assert “that’s what those people do over there.”
It’s hard to talk about crime. 
We either talk about it too much or too little. When the victims are people living with privilege we talk about it too much. When the victims lack resources we talk about it too little.  One has to wonder how conversations about crime can be elevated beyond the backgrounds of the victims.
This is not to imply that we shouldn’t talk about crimes on the American Tobacco Trail.  It’s a problem that deserves the full attention of those entrusted with the task of protecting those who walk and run on the trail.  We may not know the motivation behind the crimes.  We aren’t sure if these crimes are “gang related”.  They could be a series of isolated incidents, or perpetrators connected to one another in some organized or unorganized manner.
What we know is these crimes must stop.  A number of solutions have been proposed.  Durham police have purchased three utility terrain vehicles that will allow expanded patrol along the trail.  Police are using foot and bicycle patrols and in uniform and plainclothes along the trail. Civilian cameras have also been proposed.
Emergency call boxes will be installed if incidents continue.  It is estimated that boxes will cost in the $200,000 range, with additional cost for monthly phone connection charges.
Talk about reducing crime on the trail has resulted in a number of solutions that should solve the problem.  It’s difficult having similar talks about crime in areas with a high concentration of black and brown residents.  Crime on a trail is one thing.  Crime in a community is entirely different.
Be it the American Tobacco Trail, North East Central Durham or the Downtown Business District, the victims of crimes in all areas deserves to be heard.  Our response should not be limited by the tax bracket of those screaming to be heard. 
Its tough talking about crime, but someone has to yell when no one is listening. 

No comments:

Post a Comment