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VIPER has to work

It’s nearly a daily late-night event—someone’s store or vehicle or house is subject of break-ins, vandals or thieves.

It’s more common here than not, considering each night’s usual activities of thugs on the prowl, many of them armed, looking for some unsuspecting advantage to enter someone’s private property or commercial business.

There’s some help on the way and it’s none too soon.

Bainbridge Public Safety has leased a building at 401. E. Broughton St. for a command post, a location close to the preponderance of criminal activity.

The program has a name, VIPER, which stands for Variable Intensive Patrol Eradication and Response.

Four Public Safety officers will located there, allowing quick response to reported activity in nearby neighborhoods or in nearby commercial areas under attack.

For the past two years, this column has pointed out several times the need for additional public safety efforts to stem the tide of rising crime in Bainbridge and Decatur County. With a population of 50-50 minorities to whites, the statistics show our community with a higher percentage of crimes than cities of comparable size.

It’s not always adults who cause trouble. Bands of youths are prone to break-in to schools or other buildings during the weekends or holidays and inflict their particular brand of vandalism. And it’s not only city properties under attack—sheriff’s investigators have plenty to do also.

Our thanks go to City Manager Chris Hobby, Chief Larry Funderburke and Investigator Frank Green for initiating this project. They investigated other cities with similar crime problems, then applied for a grant, receiving $157,000 from the federal government, which aided in providing additional funds for this project.

We just concluded a national holiday in which we saluted the work of Martin Luther King toward recognizing, among other things, that students must stay in school, shun gang activities, and look to positive role models. There are a myriad of minority people who have left the projects, received college degrees, and have become respectable citizens, contributing to the welfare of others and their community.

These people are proper role models, yet we need to get out stronger messages that this is the land of opportunity, and there are obstacles to overcome, but those obstacles should be grist to continue the struggle. It can and has been done.

A few years ago, a black mother was telling me how she lived in a neighborhood near Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. She lived in this house with her daughter, a middle school student. As soon as it got dark, she had to lock down her house, secure the iron grates over the doors and windows, because on the street in front of her house, criminal gang activity flourished. At night, they became prisoners in their own home.

And so it is in our own neighborhoods along Water and Broughton streets and other similar neighborhoods. How many respectable black families or single parents must lock themselves in their homes each night to protect themselves from the activities on the street, prisoners too in their own homes?

VIPER is essential. It has to work. Officers must have the skills and equipment to quickly respond to criminal activity. Their presence must be observed also as a deterrent so decent people don’t have to lock down their homes to get safely through the night.