Avoiding neighborhood collapse

Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 22, 2014

By Buddy McDonald

Guest Columnist 

Aristotle said that, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” This applies to Good and Evil also. The streets and neighborhoods of our cities and county are subject to this principal. Police agencies attempt to ensure that law and order prevail in our communities, but if they are withdrawn or unreasonably restrained for political reasons, criminals will control our streets and neighborhoods, filling the vacuum.

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New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago and other cities across our country have fallen victim to a criminal takeover. This generally follows a pattern. A gang or group forms in a neighborhood. It achieves dominance through violence and intimidation. It begins to support politicians and some pseudo religious leaders who are self-appointed spokespersons for the neighborhood. They begin a campaign to accuse the police of over patrolling and profiling in high crime neighborhoods. They begin by having citizens from the neighborhoods complain about small things first, then build to physical confrontations with officers such as gang groups surrounding officers when they make a traffic stop, arrest, or a search. This results in bad publicity for the local government and officers are forced to defend actions and back out of the neighborhood at times.

Weak public officials, sometimes fearing a loss of votes or appearing racist or politically incorrect at times limit police patrols, which gives gangs a freer rein for their criminal activity.

Even worse things happen with the reduction of police presence. Residents of the neighborhoods who are law abiding lose faith in the police, and begin to fear the criminals more and quit making crime in progress 911 calls. Citizens refuse to testify or come forward with information on criminals. Eventually the criminals have enough influence to swing elections and attempt to influence political decisions to their advantage.

Violent crime becomes more frequent and outrageous. Witnesses refuse to cooperate even in murder investigations. People are sometimes murdered in cars with others in the cars seeing the killer but refusing to cooperate with police, or identify the murderer. Other witnesses and residents refuse to cooperate or come forward as witnesses allowing the criminals to go free.

Society breaks down in these neighborhoods as officers leave and criminals fill the vacuum created where law and order left, having ceased to protect the neighborhoods. Children view wealthy criminals as role models and join the criminals and the cycle continues to grow and areas of our cities and counties fall to criminal control.

If you think this only happens in areas of large cities think again. The pattern can and does repeat even in towns and cities our size. Look around. Do you see any signs evidencing this pattern? Protection of our entire city and county requires thorough and continuous patrolling of all areas and fair and equal enforcement of the law. All our citizens in all areas of our city and county deserve to be protected and have the law enforced in their neighborhoods. What is little understood is that most often the victims of crime are the minority poor, children and elderly.

Our cities and county governments have supported active law enforcement and avoided attempts to abandon neighborhoods to criminal control. We should support them in that effort.