Pubdate: Thu, 22 Dec 2011
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2011 The Tribune Co.


The tragedies are coming with appalling regularity. Lakeland police 
officer Arnulfo Crispin, 25, died Wednesday after being shot in the 
head Sunday night while investigating suspicious activity in a city 
park. The suspect is 19 years old.

Last February, a St. Petersburg police officer was shot while 
approaching a suspicious individual on the street. A 16-year-old was charged.

A few weeks before, two St. Petersburg policemen were shot to death 
and a federal marshal seriously wounded as they attempted to serve a 
domestic abuse warrant on a sex offender, who was killed during the encounter.

Last year, two Tampa police officers were shot to death while making 
what seemed a routine traffic stop. A 24-year-old was charged in the 
officers' death and three other murders.

In 2009, a Tampa officer was shot to death by a man who appeared to 
be a vagrant. He has since been convicted in the murder.

All this underscores the risks law enforcement officers face daily 
and shreds those too-frequent complaints about police being too 
defensive and too quick to use force.

But the tragedies also highlight another frightening development. 
There are nihilistic young men in our cities with no regard for life, 
much less authority. They are heavily armed and kill casually.

The Tribune last Sunday reported on the violence in Tampa's East 
Tampa neighborhood, which is claiming the lives of many residents.

Though overall crime may be down, many cities have similar 
neighborhoods in which violence is rampant and residents live in constant fear.

There are no easy solutions. A popular culture that celebrates 
brutality, guns and self-indulgence is no help.

It is imperative that communities not surrender to the depravity, 
that they redouble efforts to maintain order and keep the predators 
at bay. Aggressive policing is essential, but officers need the help 
of law-abiding citizens, who too often become prisoners in their 
homes as the hooligans run amok.

Investment in youth programs and other prevention efforts are 
important. But they won't have much impact on children and teens who 
see thugs controlling the neighborhood.

As lawmakers aim to cut funding for prisons and law enforcement, it's 
critical they not compromise the fight on crime.

Lawmakers should remember what happened in the 1990s, when Florida 
shortchanged law enforcement. Prisoners served less than a third of 
their sentences because of prison overcrowding, and the result was a 
criminal epidemic that brought international shame.

It is no coincidence that when the state invested in more prisons and 
demanded tough sentences, crime plummeted.

Gang members, drug dealers and other thugs must understand they will 
face grievous consequences for their offenses.

Officer Crispin heroically died trying to keep drug dealers from 
claiming a Lakeland neighborhood as their own. Rooting out drug 
dealers is exactly what must be done to save these embattled neighborhoods.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom