Three straight years of an increasing number of homicides in Calhoun County came to a timely end last year. The reason? Experts are unsure, as explained by reporter Rebecca Walker in Sunday's Star. Violent crime doesn't always stick to the status quo.
Nevertheless, that Calhoun County had only six criminal homicides in 2009 is a welcomed coda to a year that otherwise brought truckloads of economic misery, job-security fears and general unease.
It doesn't mean that the county has permanently escaped its three-year homicide hell. Calhoun Countians well remember the stats: 16 homicides in 2006, 17 in 2007 and a ghastly 20 in 2008. As residents well know, homicide rates can rise as easily as they can fall — and in a short amount of time, as well.
There may be no irrefutable proof that local efforts to reduce Calhoun County's homicide rate caused the improvement. But it's difficult to think that the emphasis law enforcement and community activists placed on reducing the number of killings didn't play a role in the good news of '09.
No effort was more prominent than Anniston's Stop the Violence organization, which residents formed during the heat of the three-year homicide spree. Today, through preaching the evils of street violence, feeding the homeless and educating youngsters on the benefits of good decisions, the organization remains an important tool in the effort to keep the seeds of killings from being planted in Anniston.
Anyone who helps law enforcement tamp down violent crime is worthy of accommodation.
Yet, there is no way police or criminal-justice experts can say this is the new reality for the county's homicide rate, or for the rest of the state that's seeing a similar reduction.
This year will have its own identity. And, as statistics show, homicides often occur inside people's homes or in domestic disputes that normal street-side policing cannot prevent.
"I have no real explanations (for the drop in homicides) other than they come in peaks and valleys," Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge told The Star. "It's more of a morals thing. If you get people together who are drinking, and in hot weather … often that's the formula that leads to homicide."
That is why the influential in Calhoun County — from politicians to the movers-and-shakers who wield authority— must support not only police efforts, but those by organizations that strive to make the streets safe. It takes teamwork.
Eradicating homicide is impossible. In fact, there's no guarantee that this year won't birth an unwanted reprise in homicide rates. But that can't stop us from diligently preaching the ills of violence and assisting those who make that their central message.