September 24, 2013
At least we aren’t No. 1.
That is the bit of good news to be found in a Page 1A story published in The Robesonian on Saturday about the high number of people accused of murder in Robeson County who are awaiting trial, just shy of 80. We could find only one county, Mecklenburg, with a higher number of accused murders, 115, but Mecklenburg has seven times as many people as doe Robeson.
There is much that stacks up against Robeson County that leaves us with such a disheartening statistic. There is the lack of jobs, but also a high number of people who are without an education or skill so they probably couldn’t find work if work were available.
There are so many young single mothers who have babies but not the resources to care for them, so the babies grow up and menace society rather than contribute to it.
There is our four-race demographic, which creates tension, and our history of trying to solve problems through the fist, knife or firearm, which is why we are No. 1 in the state in violent crime.
There is our sheer size — 951 square miles, the most of any county in North Carolina. We have said often that if you dropped an area as large as Robeson County over towns in North Carolina that have low crime rates, then large pockets of crime would be inherited. An example would be Chapel Hill, which would then be saddled with Durham.
The long line of accused murderers awaiting justice could easily be blamed on the local District Attorney’s Office, which is led by Johnson Britt. But that would be an errant shot. Britt’s office is understaffed and ill-equipped to aggressive prosecute every accused murderer. That leads to plea arrangements, which Britt causes a “necessary evil,” in which one murder defendant is awarded a shorter sentence for testimony against another murder defendant.
Our Sheriff’s Office, likewise, is outnumbered and outgunned. Deputies aren’t in a position to prevent violent crime, but can only clean up the mess.
It will be interesting heading into the May 2014 primary and the November 2014 General Election to see how — if at all — candidates for the county Board of Commissioners handle questions about the high rate of crime. We would like to see pennies added to the tax rate that would raise dollars that would be used to hire more prosecutors for the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute these thugs. We believe, given the choice, the owner of a $100,000 home would be glad to pay an additional $20 more a year as part of a $1.2 million special fund to address the issue of violent crime.
It would be a brave candidate who would suggest a tax hike to deal with our crime problem.
Candidates for sheriff, however, won’t be able to duck those questions.
Robeson County’s streets will be safer when we do a better job of educating our young people and putting them to work. But most of you reading this won’t live that long.
Until then, our best hope in keeping the peace is to pluck from the streets those who would do harm to others, and keep them locked up and away from those of us whose daily routine includes obeying the law.