>Public Safety: Western Tribune Column June 10, 2009

>Just hours after, and a few blocks away from, the Mayor’s town hall meeting on Bessemer’s south side last week perception occurred. That’s what the Mayor attributed the insecurity to that many residents are feeling since another home invasion and abduction occurred in the area two months ago.

He said that the perception that public safety is a problem is based on historical crime rates and high profile crimes such as the bombing at City Hall that took place in 1979. Bessemer’s reputation as an unsafe place stems from that era, he said.

Although the victims of several crimes pressed the Mayor for an appropriate response he never really answered the questions posed, instead choosing to shift the focus to those who aired their concerns. After all, perception can just be a figment of the mind. Is the crime around us just our imagination?

Ask the seven Hispanics whose home was invaded the night of the town hall meeting. One of the victims is pregnant and was told her baby would be killed. The victim of the other home invasion was told he would be killed, and was fortunate to escape. Perception is reality for these people.

I don’t have an answer for the crime problem in Bessemer, if I did, I would be the mayor. But those of us who vote expect our elected officials to come up with solutions to problems, not to ignore them, and not to demean those who are concerned by claiming they are ashamed of Bessemer and are part of the problem because they are spreading negativity. That is the perception I came away from the meeting with.

Unlike the previous home invasion, this crime was in the news within hours. Did circumstances dictate the publicity (did a news crew happen to be nearby) or has the police department learned from the strong response from the public after the first home invasion was kept out of the news?

And speaking of the first home invasion, surveillance photos were eventually released and seen online and in the newspapers and on television. There is an indication that the criminals are from the area because of something they said. Someone knows who they are, but are not telling.

Those are the people who are contributing to the reality that crime is a growing problem here, not the home and business owners who voice their concerns about their safety.

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