Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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Editorial: Decline in Longview homicides during 2017 is news worth celebrating

Jan. 7, 2018 at 12:36 a.m.

There still were too many.

But the fact the number of homicides

in Longview during 2017 was down from the previous year — the first time that has happened in three years — can only be seen as welcome news.

According to data reported this past week by the News-Journal, the tally of homicides in the city fell to 10 in 2017 — and that number could go one lower pending completion of a still-open investigation.

The decline negates troubling increases in 2015 and 2016, both years in which 15 murders were committed. For a city our size, those numbers of homicides were far more than normal, and well more than had been seen in the previous few years. In 2014, for example, just five homicides were recorded. A year earlier, in 2013, the total was eight.

The sad reality put a new focus on the situation.

In the Longview Police Department, that focus led to some new community policing efforts and a new officer pay structure intended to help the city fill vacant positions. Those efforts apparently are having the sought-after impact.

As we have said before, however, police cannot be held solely responsible for rising crime and violence. Likewise, they alone cannot be credited for this past year's welcome decline. Officers can investigate what happened and, hopefully, help bring guilty parties to justice. But lasting reduction in crime requires systemic changes outside law enforcement.

Those include providing educational systems that reach all our young people, a strong economy that provides the jobs necessary to lift families from poverty and keep them strong, adequate housing in safe neighborhoods, help for those with addiction and more.

We know the startling increases in violent crime in recent years also led to a new awareness of such factors, and that awareness certainly has had an impact on bringing down the totals as well.

In the past few years, we have seen neighbors putting a new focus on watching each others' backs, more church and other civic and community groups paying attention to the issue and city agencies leading a systemic approach that aims to help young people find and stay on a safe and productive path.

As we said, any number of murders is too many, but we know they are going to occur no matter what we do. That is a sad fact of life in our society.

But last year's decline — which we believe is due to a combination of police activity, increased awareness and community groups working together — is worth celebrating. This is one downward trend we hope to see continue.



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