Violent crime in Richmond

For more of my commentary on life in Richmond, Indiana check out RichmondMatters.com.

The Palladium-Item has an article out today noting an increase in homicides here over the last year compared to previous years.

I want to be careful to say that I don't write about this trend in this space with any promise or implication that my election or anyone else's could prevent individual crimes or save lives.  We know that no elected official and not even the best trained and funded police forces can prevent individual violent crimes when there are so many other background factors that go into these horrific events.

But I think our reaction to this trend as a community will speak greatly about our future prospects for building a version of Richmond that is safe, vibrant and thriving.

If we follow initial temptations to drift toward finger-pointing, increasing fear, vigilante justice and further isolation from each other as a solution, we risk unhelpfully turning against each other as members of an inter-dependent community.  In tough economic times, it is precisely because of increasing fear and isolation that the most troubled and under-served individuals in our society turn to more and more desperate and dangerous actions to survive.

People talk often about wanting smaller government and more individual freedoms, but a city with those qualities is also a city made up of people who know how to work together despite differences, to care for those among us who are at risk or in need, and to engage in our shared responsibilities around building relationships and resolving conflict, instead of abdicating that responsibility to centralized authority figures or resorting to violence.

So, how does a community address this particular kind of troubling trend? Is it about community policing and neighborhood watches and more funding for law enforcement? Maybe.

But could it also involve more interpersonal accountability, healthier families and neighborhoods, cultural shifts away from inherent fear of those who do not look or act like we do, examining the media messages we consume and what they encourage about problem-solving, better education of our children, and new models for how individuals can be valued, have self-worth and make a living? I think so.

City Council and city government has a role to play in that, but so do we all. It's an intricate puzzle and no one elected official, election or legislative decision is going to affect our violent crime rate overnight. But if we step back from a fear-based response and look at the big picture, we can as a community decide to make changes that begin to address this and all of the interrelated issues we face.

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