When the phone rang at 9:30 last night, I glanced at the name and knew I wasn’t about to hear good news. We all have those people in our lives we spend time with and it’s always a great time, but when they pick up the phone to call you, you know it ain’t about fun and games.
The first words that blasted out of his mouth was, “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE ABOUT KIRKLAND NOT SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT ALL THESE MURDERS?”
Yeah y’all, it sucks to be me sometimes.
The hardest part about being a community journalist is that I’m from the community and I live in the community. On one hand, it gives me great access to a lot of great stuff that goes on around here that an outsider would never discover. On the other hand, it obligates me to play the role of watchdog and share with my readers some of the not so nice things that go on. It’s easy to spill the beans on strangers, but it’s dicey exposing shoddy work from people you’ve known most of your life.
Thankfully, I have a buffer in the Delaware County Daily Times when it comes to reporting bad news. I can always lean on their reporting when reporting the bad things around here while sprinkling in a little known fact here and there that only an insider would know.
The caller wasn’t wrong. I have shied away from going all in on the mayor for his lack of public response to the murders. They’re a sensitive group over at City Hall and they don’t like a lot of attention for the things they do. I don’t ask them to comment on what they do and they don’t send me press releases or notices of their press conferences. So, I count on the newspapers to do my reporting for me.
In Kirkland’s defense, he probably is doing something about the murders. He just isn’t telling anyone about it. Obviously, he doesn’t realize his silence is an issue in the community, but as the guy on the street who hears from my friends and neighbors, it definitely is a problem.
Since I’m not at the press conferences, I don’t get a full picture of what Kirkland and Police Commissioner Blair say. But, I must say, the quotes that end up in the paper are not flattering. For example, in today’s paper…
Kirkland and Blair addressed the media on the rising tide of violence immediately after the meeting, asking for the public’s help in preventative measures and in solving open homicide cases.
That’s a bad statement. The people out here aren’t interested in solving open homicide cases, they are concerned about what the city is doing to stop these murders.
The police commissioner follows up with this statement…
Blair said that new initiatives from the county district attorney are coming, and asked in the meantime for the public to be willing to come forward and help officers “in solving senseless murders.”
There’s two things wrong with this statement. One, he’s letting us know the district attorney will be coming to the rescue sometime in the future even though people want to know what the city is doing now. And again, he puts solving murders before stopping murders.
Kirkland does offer some guidance, albeit the common sense things we always hear…
Law enforcement cannot do it alone. We need the cooperation of the public… (for) family members to stop providing shelter for (suspected criminals) and their activities. If it means checking our children’s social media accounts to make sure they are not being threatened or threatening others, then so be it … if it means checking our children’s rooms and making sure they’re not hiding weapons for themselves or others, so be it. If it means just sitting down with them and reminding them how precious their lives and the lives of others are, so be it.
This community is looking for firm leadership regarding these murders. Language is important. He can’t keep saying “If it means”..this or that. It DOES mean this or that in his advice to parents. The ‘If it means’ line is so wishy-washey. Don’t close by saying “So be it?” We have a lot of tough people in this city. Saying ‘So be it’ is like saying ‘Do it if you feel like it.’
“We have started several programs that I can’t get into right now, but at a later date and time we, along with the district attorney’s office, will be making an announcement sooner rather than later.”
Why can’t you get into it right now? What kind of program is coming down the pike? Why can’t the community that’s suffering mentally, physically, and emotionally be included, informed, or consulted with these programs? How much later do we have to wait for the cavalry to arrive? Are we to assume the city has no program on their own and are just allowing murder after murder to occur with no adjustments to how you do business?
I’m writing on behalf of the streets. I hope you’re hearing them because they are loud and clear in my world.
Again, in Kirkland’s defense, he is absolutely right. The calvary is coming by way of the county district attorney’s office. How do I know? Because me and my crew met them in their offices back in January, six-murders ago, to offer our help and to tell them what we want from them to help stop these murders in Chester.
We barely got past the introductions in their Media courthouse office, when they laid out the exact plan they’re putting together that will roll through Chester in about the same time frame Kirkland is implying. Remember, the DA just got the job in January, and to their credit, addressing crime in Chester is one of their top priorities. They realize if what they do works in Chester, they can roll it out to other hot spots in the county who are begging them to start with their city and to forget Chester.
My crew left their offices impressed. Everything on our wish list was addressed, and more, before we ever said a word. As my partner said right to their faces across the table, “My bullshit meter isn’t going off.”
As Kirkland implies, the crackdown is coming and it’s going to come hard. Obviously, I can’t speak on the details but I’d expect the mayor and police commissioner would confide in a few citizens to get the word out around town that something is coming down the pike. At least give the folks on the streets some confidence in city government’s plans for stopping murders.
If we are 100% successful at stopping murders, we’d have 0% need to solve open homicide cases. Which side of the equation do you want your city government working on most?
I’m not sure they hear you!