04Safe Imagine being in a Wal-Mart parking lot, piling your bags of groceries or Christmas decorations in the back seat of your car. Then you hear it: POP, POP, POP.

Your ears are ringing, and before you know it, someone you hardly noticed a few seconds earlier in a car a couple of spaces from yours has been shot. They look scared and bleary-eyed, and they wonder if there’s anyone who can help them or if they’ll live to see another day.

And then it hits you. After the initial shock, you realize that you were there, and you or a loved one could easily have been hurt — or worse — by a stray bullet. Then you get mad that something like this can happen right next to you ... in your community.

Well, it happened in Fayetteville on Sept. 27, during daylight hours, in a crowded parking lot. The police say it was a drug deal gone wrong. But the potential for innocent bystanders getting hurt was real.

September was a banner month for crime in Fayetteville.

Sept. 1, a robber at a Cedar Creek motel shot his resisting victim in the upper leg, leaving him seriously wounded.

Sept. 3, two men robbed a woman as she was leaving a Raeford Road grocery store. They put a pistol to her head and pulled her handbag out of her shopping cart.

Sept. 5, Fayetteville police discovered two murdered men. Someone shot them while they sat in a car parked next to a popular Cross Creek Mall area restaurant.

Sept. 21, a lone gunman robbed a Raeford Road bank.

Sept. 22, a predator raped a woman along Old Wilmington Road.

Sept. 24, a man walked into a CVS pharmacy, pulled out a pistol and demanded Oxycodone pills.

And a day later, Sept. 25, a heartless subhuman shot two men just off Raeford Road. He left a 19-year-old dead and an 18-year-old seriously wounded.

We’ve become numb to violent crime in Fayetteville. They are statistics, headlines on a page. Besides, we’ll be fine in our homes.

Maybe not.

There was a time when your home was your castle.It was a haven from the freezing rain or searing sun. It was a place where you gathered with your family for dinner or an evening around a television. It was your sanctuary from all the bad things in the world.

But times have changed.

A couple of years ago, a 57-year-old woman living just off Rim Road started her summer day grocery shopping. I won’t mention her name. Instead, you can substitute the name of your mother, your wife or your daughter. That’s because this story can happen to anyone.

After coming home and bringing in her groceries, the doorbell rang. Like most people our age, she was a trusting person. She had no idea what was about to happen.

Before she could react, two thugs forced their way into her home. They held her hostage at gunpoint. They ransacked her home, stealing her jewelry, her money and more importantly, her belief that nothing bad would ever happen to her in her castle.

It wasn’t the first home invasion. Two weeks earlier, the same thieves robbed a 63-year-old man in another residential neighborhood, stealing money and a gun. He also answered his doorbell.

In fact, that summer, breaking into the homes of elderly became a popular crime.

Violent crime used to be a thug-on-thug event ... a drug deal gone wrong. Home invasions are different. Criminals target innocent, mostly older adults ... people who work hard for their money ... people who should be safe in their homes.

We need to stop criminals who shoot people in crowded parking lots in the middle of the day or outside busy restaurants where families gather to eat.

You pay your taxes. That makes you the boss. Let’s demand that people getting your tax dollars do something about crime in our city ... especially violent crime that has been happening way too often in Fayetteville.

I propose we establish a communitywide task force that figures out how to deal with Fayetteville’s violent crime disease.

Crime not only hurts people, it hurts our reputation. Employers who could put people to work don’t want to set up shop in a place where shooting people is an everyday event.

We have a good Police Department, be we need EVERYONE on board. That means the Sheriff’s Office must work with the Police Department; the County Commissioners must work with the City Council.

Finally, the court system — magistrates, judges and prosecutors — must work with everyone on the team.

And that team has to include people, citizens who have been victims, who are concerned about crime and what it’s doing to our reputation.


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