As we dawn the year 2017, the general public has been inundated with a barrage of crime statistics from the previous year on several national news channels. When Chicago chimed in with 700-plus murders for 2016, it set off an avalanche of comments from others cities, including similar remarks from residents of Pine Bluff.

I have heard comments such as, “there we are in a few years,” “It won’t be long before we end up like Chicago,” and “Pine Bluff is just a training place for the criminals in Chicago.” Negative thinking is like a cancer and will infiltrate the hearts and minds of those who are not solution oriented, but are problem focused. The City of Pine Bluff is not as horrible or crime driven as most would believe.

Crime stats, which were recently released by the Pine Bluff Police Department, are contrary to the general public’s opinion. Crime rates are actually down from previous reports. Allowing our city to be defined by what’s wrong with it only perpetuates the issue.

The comments and views of a hand full of citizens do not a city make. The general consensus of a community can be changed, but it will take the whole of the city to accomplish a positive transformation. Just like church, 20 percent of the people cannot continue to do 80 percent of the work.

As a child I was slammed with the saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” WRONG! The words of — especially Pine Bluff’s own residents and city leaders — have turned the opinion of this city from “The City of Progress,” to “Crime Bluff.”

The City of Pine Bluff was and still is the Flagship of the Delta. It is up to city leadership, Ward leadership, educators and parents to turn the tides of criticism into a positive plan for progress. The change begins with us! In 2017, make a point to find the good in our community and talk about that.

Look at the wonderful programs that ARE working, the community servants who give their all to the needy and recognize and encourage our new and long-term small businesses. We have the ability to alter the attitude and atmosphere of our great city.

It’s time to knock the chip off of this city’s shoulder and begin to connect with each other and become the most formidable municipality in Southeast Arkansas. Live for today and purpose to look forward toward the possibilities of tomorrow. We can become “Pine Bluff Proud” if we choose.

Rev. Kelley Bohlmann of Pine Bluff