This week the Office for Victims of Crime, a component of the U. S. Department of Justice, serves as the coordinating agency for the annual observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW). According to OVC, the purpose of the week is to promote victims' rights and honor crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf.

This week the Office for Victims of Crime, a component of the U. S. Department of Justice, serves as the coordinating agency for the annual observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW). According to OVC, the purpose of the week is to promote victims’ rights and honor crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf.

As reported in the Commercial, Healing Peace Ministries served as host to a local observance of NCVRW this past Sunday. At the local event, survivors of homicide victims and victims of other crimes came together at New Community Church on the north side of Pine Bluff.

Among the featured presentations was a proclamation delivered by Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr.

“I wish there was a time and a place where services like this are no longer needed,” Redus said before reading the proclamation.

We wholeheartedly agree with Redus on this sentiment. Caught up in the moment of tragedy, we too often forget the aftermath. While we are quick to enumerate the body count, we frequently fail to remember the families, friends and communities left to navigate the fallout from violence.

Once the front page is turned and we no longer see the anguish on the mother’s face, we drift into a complacency that fails to acknowledge her long road of grief, depression and loss. Gatherings such as those held during NCVRW prompt us to remember that “victims of crime” often means something much broader than the person directly injured in the crime. As Rev. David Morgan of Healing Place Ministries told the assembled crowd, “Long after the funeral is done, and even after the trial is over, the families of victims still need support.” Beyond this important focus, speakers at the local event highlighted a grim demographic truth about our local crime epidemic. Of the 20 homicide victims last year in Jefferson and Lincoln counties, 16 were black males.

Rev. Jesse Turner, pastor of Elm Grove Baptist Church and executive director of Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, said “homicides and crimes damage the image of Pine Bluff.” Turner cited domestic violence, drugs and gangs for the crimes.

“In our community, black males are dying too soon, they’re dying too often, and they’re dying too young,” Turner said.

While this statistic is an onerous finding, it contains the seeds of a solution. While the victims have been predominantly younger black men, so too have their killers. This then begs we ask what poisons our youth such that they murder each other so readily. What is it that we have failed to do as a community that facilitates this bloody process?

Many will say that it is fundamentally a family’s responsibility to train its young people in rectitude and ethical living. While it is certainly true that families bear a central responsibility, we as a community should be prepared to take up what families have not. Yes, we could quibble about who bears the greater responsibility, but one thing is for certain: When Pine Bluff has a murder rate many times greater than the national average, we all pay a price. On one hand there’s the literal financial price. As we reported last October, crime costs our city over 40 percent of the gross municipal product. In other words, 40 percent of every dollar generated in this community went to assail crime. With a crime tariff that high, we can’t expect good schools, job growth, population expansion or any of the other niceties of life in a civil society.

On the other, there’s the aggregate emotional toll. When a community becomes so besieged by violence, even the most ardent community cheerleaders grow mute. It becomes harder to sell progress amid a river of carnage.

Accordingly, we must work together to save those we know to be at greatest risk. For saving them is the path to saving ourselves.