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Bill Jacobs: Growing problem needs attention

Three recent events, with a common thread, suggest anuncomfortable growing problem in our community. Reader postings toour website and letters published in our print edition regardingthe events suggest that along with the discomfort, a frustration isbuilding but not necessarily in the same direction.

Consider that in recent weeks, the Brookhaven School Districthas been forced to restrict public access to the walking track atBrookhaven High School. Consider further, the decision by membersof a Brookhaven civic group to secure the perimeter of the ExchangeClub Park.

Then reflect on the downtown armed robbery and shooting of anelderly lady just over a month ago. Also consider, the news thispast week about that shooting.

The common thread is crime.

Over the years we have published numerous photos and stories ofindividuals and groups who regularly use the track at BHS to getexercise in the evening. Common interest has built friendship amongpeople who otherwise might not have the occasion to meet.Unfortunately, due to repeated damage by vandals, the track is nowclosed in the evenings to the public.

For over 60 years, the community has enjoyed the hard work ofBrookhaven Exchange Club members to provide the facilities of theExchange Club Park. Throughout the years, families and groups werewelcomed onto the grounds to use the playground facilities.

Each year the ending days of summer signaled the annual ExchangeClub Fair, which brought hundreds to the park each year to enjoythe rides and games of the fair’s midway. The funds generated bythe historic fair have been and are invested back into thecommunity in the form of charitable gifts.

This next year that donation will be $20,000 less, for the clubwas forced to spend that money to install an 8-foot tall, barbedwire-topped fence. Why? To protect the park from vandals and otherswhose interests are less than civic-minded.

In a story in Friday’s edition we documented some of theincidents that led to the decision to erect the fence. Quitefrankly, we toned down the story, for some of the unlawful eventsthat led to the decision were too disgusting.

In tough economic times, the petty elements of crime alwaysincrease. Frustration and restlessness cause people to do thingsthey might not otherwise do. The more seedy side of society becomesmore visible and unless kept in check, that element forces goodresponsible people to hide behind fences and locked doors.

Strong community leadership can go a long way toward pushingback that irresponsible element.

Strong community leadership however, does not just mean ourelected officials, they have to be supported by a responsive publicwho are willing to stand up and say no. Elsewhere on this page youwill find some who are doing just that.

Our elected leadership, however, has to be willing to respond.Frankly, based on the issues that appear to take the city board’svaluable time these days, we have to wonder if some of the boardmembers are out of touch.

Getting the board’s attention recently have been inane andendless discussions on smoking regulations, internal bickeringbetween board members over the allocation of paving funds, andspecial meetings to debate the hiring of unqualified andunder-trained firefighters who live in the city instead ofqualified and trained firefighters who do not!

It all leaves the impression that the city board is not tuned into the very real immediate public safety problems facing our city!When a barbed wire fence has to be erected, public facilitiesclosed, an innocent elderly lady shot in broad daylight, and publicsafety is not the city board’s immediate focus, something isamiss!

We live in an uncertain world these days, and while there islittle this community can do little about national concerns, thereis MUCH we can do about vandalism and the crime that is happeningaround us in our own neighborhoods.

It all starts right here with local community leadership that isnot afraid of stepping on a few toes; use of some old-fashionedcommon sense; and making individuals accountable for their ownirresponsible actions.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602, orsend e-mail to bjacobs@dailyleader.com.