The City of Fayetteville is experiencing an unprecedented increase in homicides this year, and is on track to set an all-time high record. The current total is 28 with two months to go in the year. The city’s worst murder count was in 1993 when the number hit 30, but it was an anomaly. In August of that year four people were killed and eight others wounded in a mass shooting at Luigi’s Italian Restaurant. Fort Bragg solider Kenneth French Jr., was tried and convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
This year’s increase follows a significant decline in murders in 2015 with only 19 which makes the turnaround more baffling. Police officials say it’s difficult to attribute reasons for the annual ups and downs of killings.
“Law enforcement cannot predict when a son will murder his parents, why a husband kills his wife and then himself, why individuals recently released from long prison sentences become victims or suspects in homicides,” said Interim Police Chief Anthony Kelly. These are actual cases this year.
The police department, adds Kelly, is committed to programs designed to reduce violent crimes, but they may not show results for years to come. They include the EKG program (Educating Kids on Gun Violence), the LEAD program (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) for low-level drug offenders, and the newly created Misdemeanor Diversion Program intended to keep 16- and 17-year-olds from being put in a system that could have the unintended consequence of life-long involvement in criminal activity. The Police Activity League and Operation Ceasefire are other programs designed to help combat crime.
Kelly notes homicides have increased nationally this year, but police professionals don’t entirely understand why. Major cities across the U.S. have experienced a surge in homicides. Murders are up in roughly 30 big cities so far in 2016, according to data released by the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Kelly says the FPD evaluates each murder and reaches out to the families of victims and suspects in efforts to understand the whys and wherefores as well as to reduce additional violence. Fayetteville Police records show that all of this year’s murder cases have been cleared with arrests.
How can police and local leaders mobilize the citizenry to stop the killing in their communities? Police chiefs generally agree that homicide is a community problem with solutions present in the community. Washington, D.C.’s recently retired Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier, pointed out after a rash of homicides that there is a limit to what law enforcement alone can do to prevent killings.* Chief Kelly, a 22-year veteran of law enforcement, agrees that fighting crime is a shared societal responsibility.
“Social and economic issues related to the lack of educational opportunities, affordable housing, limited job opportunities, substance abuse and mental health issues contribute to crime,” he says. “Everyone plays a role in keeping the community safe, and we endeavor to do everything we can to continue our efforts to reduce violent crime.”
* “Another Shooting Adds to District’s Deadly Weekend,” The Washington Post, Metro Section, Monday June 2, 2008.