Can the violence be stopped?

Published 7:31 pm Saturday, December 26, 2015

Are drugs the root of the problem? Are guns? Is poverty? Maybe it’s a combination of the three.

Whatever lies at the root of the violence that has infected Brookhaven this year, it must be stopped.

For two years now, there has been a fatal shooting on Christmas Eve, with two people being killed this year. That’s a red flag that something is wrong.

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If the two deaths on Thursday are considered murders, they would be the ninth and 10th in the city this year. That’s a staggering number of homicides, when the normal is somewhere in the range of two to four.

Brookhaven did not report its crime statistics to the FBI for 2014. However, many other cities did, so we can make some comparisons.

Hattiesburg, a city of 47,930 people, recorded 11 murders in 2014. No other city that reported crimes to the FBI, except for Jackson, had more than nine. Meridian, a city with a population of 40,873, recorded that number.

Brookhaven, a city of 12,500, had as many murders in 2015 as a city more than three times its size in 2014. That should be a wake-up call to everyone here.

The number of murders in 2015 is hopefully an anomaly and not a trend. In 2010, three murders were reported in the FBI’s crime statistics. No murders were reported in 2011 and just one in 2012. The Daily Leader reported three murders for 2013 and four murders in 2014.

The city — its elected officials, the police department, court system and residents — must commit to stopping the violence. If that means more investment into law enforcement resources, then so be it. Drug offenders and those who commit violent crimes must be taken off the streets, and the court system must make sure they stay off the streets.  Plea deals that give offenders a fraction of the jail time as a guilty conviction need to be used sparingly.

Stopping the crime that has plagued Brookhaven will only be a priority if the community and its residents demand that it be a priority. If we accept that this kind of violence is unstoppable, then it will be.