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EDITORIAL — Violent crime wave: Citizens must help

The solution for violent crime in Port Arthur may rest, at least in part, on law enforcement initiatives like the creation of the Crime Response Team.

Port Arthur police announced this week that the department has formed such a unit, with the goal of making concerted efforts to combat violent crimes where they occur the most. Statistics will drive the rollout.

Police say this is no knee-jerk response to the outbreak of violent crime in recent weeks but a more measured response to Port Arthur crime that’s been some time in the making. Maybe so. It’s not a new strategy but can be effective, at least in the short term.

But it will take more than that to address this city’s violent crime, which, along with Beaumont’s, ranks near the worst in the state for metro areas. It doesn’t do us well to ignore or downplay the problem. It is real.

The problem — oh, the problem! — comes from a spate of societal issues and deteriorating moral values. But sometimes it is better to focus on the solution than the underlying problem. There’s time to address that later.

Who fires indiscriminately into a home or an apartment? Someone who doesn’t care that a child may be at the other end of the bullets fired. It takes a special kind of criminal.

That’s what our area is facing these days. A 4-year-old was shot in a drive-by that struck a single-family dwelling in El Vista; a 6-year-old was shot when 21 rounds of bullets were fired into a Groves apartment.

“How do you combat stupidity? If you deal with a person, you can rehabilitate,” said District 4 Councilmember Harold Doucet. “But stupidity? The dumb stuff? Those who go out and shoot up a house?”

That, indeed, is a worse problem. Dealing with criminals who operate wholly without moral direction, without a care for those they hurt, requires a consistent, concerted, tireless effort. You cannot shame such people.

It involves, as Doucet and Mayor Thurman Bartie have recently suggested, drawing upon the collective strength and unyielding effort of people who do care. It means that neighbors must bond with neighbors, that citizens must report suspicious activity, that people must write down descriptions of people and cars and must write down license plates.

“The police can’t be everywhere. We have to be the eyes for the police, so to speak. Let them know, ‘Hey, something is going down in my neighborhood, getting ready to happen. I’m watching some activity that doesn’t seem right. Can you send someone to the scene and check it out?” That’s Bartie’s suggestion and it is well taken.

We’re glad that the police are taking shrewd steps to fight this violent wave. They can’t do it alone. They need you.