2012 we hardly knew you It is not the start for which anybody hoped, but all the same, it is our reality. With last Thursday's homicide, Pine Bluff's year-to-date-per capita (based on 100,000 population) is 4.22. This figure takes into consideration the two homicides within the city limits this year —- no quibbling about the count, please —- as well as the linear average of population decline, established over the past decade. By comparison, the national rate is approximately 4.5. In other words, it took us 19 whole days to be almost equal to national average of homicides per capita for an entire year. Fortunately, it has never worked out this way, but the present pace of one murder every 9.5 days would yield a 2012 body count of 38, which would put us at something north of twenty times the national rate. Mercifully, we'll probably finish 2012 with something closer to six or seven times the national average.

2012 we hardly knew you It is not the start for which anybody hoped, but all the same, it is our reality. With last Thursday’s homicide, Pine Bluff’s year-to-date-per capita (based on 100,000 population) is 4.22. This figure takes into consideration the two homicides within the city limits this year —- no quibbling about the count, please —- as well as the linear average of population decline, established over the past decade. By comparison, the national rate is approximately 4.5. In other words, it took us 19 whole days to be almost equal to national average of homicides per capita for an entire year. Fortunately, it has never worked out this way, but the present pace of one murder every 9.5 days would yield a 2012 body count of 38, which would put us at something north of twenty times the national rate. Mercifully, we’ll probably finish 2012 with something closer to six or seven times the national average.

It is important to remember that the police are doing all they can. More specifically, the line officers are doing all they can. As before, they are neither omniscient nor omnipresent. Accordingly, we can only hope for so much.

Many public figures, when asked about the murder epidemic like to blame the cause du jour. In the present case, that’s the drug known by the street name “wet.” We’ve experienced a pair of notable and horrific instances where the perpetrator was believed to be under the influence of wet. Unless the other 15 or so were likewise influenced, eradication of this demon isn’t the sole answer. Some have offered the theory that illicit drugs more generally are to blame. This explanation is probably a bit more insightful. Not necessarily the direct use, but the underground economy of illicit drugs appears to have been a substantial factor in a number of local murders. That said, one doesn’t have an underground economy without users to supply. After a point, it becomes the old chicken or the egg conundrum. In either instance, it needs to be systematically addressed. Another contributory elephant in the room appears to be the irresponsible use of alcohol. Nationally, alcohol use is a component in the vast majority of all violent crimes. To say it another way, the normal moral and social fetters that keep people from hurting one another seem to be absent once alcohol becomes involved. Looking at the profusion of places in our community where one can purchase and consume alcohol, any informed person would start to form conclusions. The largest elephant in the room is perhaps the least pleasant one to acknowledge. Simply put: these killings happen because we as a community lack the will to make the deep, systemic changes necessary to excise the violence. As Shakespeare wrote, “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our star, but in ourselves that we are underlings.” Yes, unpalatable as that thought is, there is truth in it. Things are as they are because we, as a collective, lack the resolve necessary to do the hard things that are predicate to positive change. In short, crime and violence happen because we fail to stop them. What then, is the answer? It is clear that we can’t incarcerate our way out of the problem. Baring that, the answer becomes much more muddy. What we do know comes from looking at other places not pock-marked by bloodshed. Those places on average have less widespread poverty. Their schools perform better. Their neighborhoods are dominated by engaged owners, not transient renters. There are amenities… parks, theaters, cafes and other venues for family and non-inebriated socializing. The streets are clean and free of thugs in booming cars. None of this happens by accident, in either direction. Less violent places exist because the people decide to make it so. As we know locally, more violent places exist because we let them.