Published: Aug 11, 2008 01:53 PM
Modified: Aug 11, 2008 02:00 PM
Town must not tolerate violence
Its disappointing to hear Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran characterize recent frightening criminal acts as things that happen from time to time in a downtown area.Thats no doubt true, but Currans remark at a Friends of Downtown meeting shows something of a tin ear for the concerns that many people are voicing. Some just dont feel safe walking Chapel Hill streets, downtown and beyond, and thats unacceptable, even if the numbers might tell a different story.It will be hard for major downtown property owners, including the university, to attract new tenants if safety concerns are keeping people away. Its even more unsettling that residential break-ins rose 34 percent between July 2007 and June 2008 compared to the previous fiscal year, a reminder that crime is by no means confined to the central business district.Townwide, rape and aggravated assaults were down 47 and 30 percent, respectively. But robberies rose 11 percent, and homicides doubled to two when UNC Student Body President Eve Carson was gunned down on a quiet Chapel Hill street.It only takes a few shocking incidents like Carsons murder, the recent brazen hold-ups at shotgun-point, or 505 home burglaries last fiscal year to make people frightened in their own homes, much less walking on Franklin Street at night.The Police Department, and the towns political leaders need to acknowledge that and take more visible action.We applaud efforts like better lighting and the new five-officer downtown patrol. But wed like to see police form citizens watch patrols to get more eyes on the street and reinforce the message that the community is united against crime.We also would urge the town to add two or three new officers to focus on gang activity to address that growing concern.Curran said in April, You cant just bury your head in the sand and hope that gang problems are going to pass you by, because theyre here.It was surprising then that the chief didnt ask the Town Council to add a few gang officers in this years budget. Theres only one officer assigned to gang investigations now, and he does that part time.Curran says competing budget concerns convinced him this wasnt the year to shore up the police force.We beg to differ.Theres never been a better time to send a loud-and-clear signal that Chapel Hill will not tolerate violence.
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2008 The Chapel Hill News