(This is a reprint of my column in this week’s Verge newspaper)
Crime throughout Augusta seems to be on the rise and officials are struggling to come up with ways to stem the problem. In the recent past, we have had a couple beat within an inch of their lives at Riverwalk, a melee on Broad Street, Waffle House workers beating each down in the middle of the diner and a probation officer shot. The crime headlines that pop up daily are making some wonder if Augusta isn’t turning into a mini-Chicago.
Let’s be honest.
Every city has to battle crime and some have it worse than others; but rest assured, Augusta’s crime problem is tame compared to other cities. The “gangs” that exist here are boy scouts compared to what you find in Atlanta. However, there are gangs operating in Augusta and they are getting more and more brazen. One of the very few criticisms I had against Sheriff Ron Strength was that he waited years to acknowledge the fact that gangs were becoming a problem. Sheriff Roundtree, on the other hand, was a street cop before being elected top law enforcement officer, so he has a much better grasp on the problem than his predecessor.
Some crime simply can’t be prevented. If a man and his wife get into a drunken argument and one decides to shoot the other, then it is simply going to happen and no one will be able to stop it from happening. Other crimes though, can be prevented. Law abiding people should not be terrified of going downtown to Riverwalk.
Unfortunately, our city leaders see the crime problem as a convenient way to raise taxes. If the extra revenue were to go to hiring more cops and increasing patrols, then I would be the first to endorse the tax hike. But instead, some on the Commission and the Sheriff want to place cameras downtown, which to me is pointless.
Cameras only serve the function of identifying criminals after the fact, and do not serve as any kind of deterrent. Criminals are not afraid of a camera, in fact, it is just the opposite. The public only became aware of the melee on Broad Street after a video surfaced on You Tube. A quick search of that website shows other brawls that have occurred in some of the public housing units and those videos were shot by the participants!
The idea that is being floated is to bring back the failed Business Improvement District but rather than fund green shirted guys on Segueways, it will go to install the cameras. Business owners can also “buy in” to the camera system and be able to view the monitor for their block. Again, this is nothing more than a feel good measure for the politicians. By putting a Band-Aid on a laceration, they can claim they at least tried something.
I have to agree wholeheartedly with commentator Charles Krauthhammer who contends that the soaring inner city crime problem across the country boils down to culture of violence that will take generations to solve, if it is ever solved. Am I going to profile here? YES. It is not Justin Beiber fans that are the ones committing crime; it is fans of JayZ and Tupac Shakur. In our culture, there is an undercurrent in mainstream society’s wake that everyone knows exists, but few are willing to admit is there.
Let me ask: if a group of people who listen primarily to Lady GaGa on the radio and own at least one Queen record, dress impeccably, correct others on their grammar, and grow hydroponic tomato gardens in their yard were known to be a group of people who shoplifted, then would every retail store owner be wary every time a gay man walked into his outlet? In reality, the people committing the crimes that impact innocent people the most listen to hard core rap, wear “hip hop” attire, speak unintelligibly and deal in marijuana. This is a fact and everyone knows it.
As I state in my book, The Contract On The Government, I know from covering the crime beat here in Augusta that the vast and overwhelming majority of armed robbers, burglars and home invaders are young black men. These are the same people who embrace the “gangsta” culture and embrace the thug lifestyle. Now, does that mean all young black men are criminals? Of course not, just like not all gay men enjoy listening to Madonna and like the smell of patchouli. It is not at all racist to point out that the people who call themselves gansta are the very demographic that is the problem in our society.
According to Lieutenant Calvin Chew of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, there are no hard statistics that are collected by law enforcement on the criminal demographic. However, for four years it was my job to collect that data everyday and put it out on the radio and I can tell you the prime BOLO for armed robbery and home invasion is black males of ages between 17 and 30. Those are just the facts, folks. The ganga lifestyle glorifies violence and criminal activity and you can verify that easily by simply going to these people’s Facebook pages or looking at the videos they post on YouTube. Even in the absence of published statistics here locally, Lt. Chew agrees with my observations here calling them “truthful.” Lt. Chew should know, he is the man in the Sheriff’s office in charge of alerting the media on the crime that takes place daily. Sheriff Roundtree knows this to be a fact too as he has created a gang task force and that department is not looking out for roving bands of drag queens. They know the profile of the average gang member and they know it is not young adults from the suburbs, but young men who primarily grew up in the housing projects.
What compounds the problem is that the black leadership here and across the nation refuses to acknowledge this as a fact. Indeed, when police were forced to shoot and kill Justin Elmore, the black leadership blamed the police! At his funeral, hundreds of people packed the church to listen to the (race baiter) Reverend Al Sharpton sing Elmore’s praises. Vendors stood outside the church selling tee-shirts and it was just days before the funeral that a mini-riot broke out in Cherry Tree Crossing.
The black ministers are not going to own up to the truth because they profit on pointing their fingers in the other direction. Rather than state the cautionary tale that if you run with gangs and break the law you may lose your life, they simply blame racism and the congregation cheers and the offering plates fill over. Black public officials like Commissioner Bill Fennoy won’t admit the truth either. He was quoted in the Augusta Chronicle as suggesting the way to curb crime is to spend more tax payer money on building parks and recreation areas so that the kids have something to do when they are not busy committing crime.
Yes, Krauthammer is right, it took generations for the problem to manifest itself and it will take generations before it ever goes away, if ever. However, rather than put up a bunch of silly cameras, there are ways to make our local environment safer. Sheriff Roundtree’s idea of community involvement in policing is beginning to sprout some success. As I stated earlier, Roundtree was an investigator before he became Sheriff and he knows that if the police can forge a relationship with the public, then the public will help identify the hood rats.
We need to elect judges that will have enough backbone to mete out harsh prison sentences to violent offenders. We, as taxpayers, also need to demand that the tv sets and basketball hoops be removed from prisons and the workout gyms in those institutions need to be converted into libraries. Prison shouldn’t be a holiday, it should be prison.
Finally, a more aware public will help ease the problem. The people of Harrisburg have learned that a watchful eye and a cell phone reduces crime. However, until we as a society finally, as a unified one, acknowledges the root of the problem, then we can put up cameras all over the place, but the criminals will remain in our midst and they will continue to ply their illegal trade. If we are going to raise taxes to protect the innocent, then let’s do it, but let’s also spend the money on measures proven to work. Spend the money on putting more police on the street so that the law abiding outnumber the lawless.
You can find out more about Tommy Scott Hudson’s book, The Contract On The Government, at http://www.thecontract.us.