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Editorial: Talk and action on local crime

There is no silver bullet to instantly wipe out violent crime in Salisbury; it’s often been said many actions would have to be taken to address the issue. Fortunately, that’s what is happening now in Salisbury, in some surprising ways.

Trinity Oaks and Lutheran Services, for example, organized the Community Engagement: “Let’s Talk” workshop held here Thursday. Participants discussed difficult topics such as violence and racism and were trained in how to approach contentious topics going forward. Trinity Oaks is known for senior-living facilities and senior care, but it is part of Lutheran Services, an organization that greatly contributes to Salisbury’s quality of life. Improving lines of communication may not seem as direct an approach to crime-fighting as hiring more officers, but it could be just as important — or more so.

We’ve talked about crime in Salisbury a great deal in recent years, and not always productively. As Deputy Police Chief Shon Barnes said at the workshop, most cities have two problems. “They have a crime problem and a fear of crime problem,” he said. “And you have to understand that the fear of crime problem is more important than the numbers.”

Salisbury has experienced worse years when it comes to murder, but the fear of crime seemed to hit a zenith in 2016, at the same time that trust between police and parts of the community seemed to reach a new low. A long string of unsolved murders contributed to both the fear and the distrust, capped at the end of the year by the killing of a 7-year-old girl in her bed. The officer-involved shooting of a young man during the serving of a warrant in November greatly increased tensions, too.

While the Trinity Oaks initiative may help people learn to talk about violence, another program involving the federal Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center could help Salisbury Police take decisive, data-driven action. It was announced Thursday that the center will work with Salisbury Police and residents to come up with ways to address key issues together, including the opioid crisis, violent crime, community engagement and the low clearance rate of homicides and gun crimes.

These two efforts alone won’t make Salisbury streets the safest in the state, but police and the city are owning up to the crime problem and taking a list of actions to address it. Along with a new chief and assistant chief, higher pay for officers and a crop of new hires, the latest initiatives reinforce the city’s sincere effort to decrease the crime rate. Salisbury residents deserve a city that feels safe and is in fact safe. We’re getting closer to that goal, day by day.

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