Why can't we stop the increasing violence in Lincoln?

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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I wonder if we will ever learn how to live peacefully with our friends, neighbors and acquaintances. I’m especially frustrated over the most recently publicized Lincoln stabbing (front page, Sept. 13 Lincoln News Messenger, “Police say two stabbings are unrelated”) that occurred Sept. 11 at the Sunset Villa Mobile Home Park trailer on O Street between First and Third streets. The front-page story elicited no comments on its online version at lincolnnewsmessenger. com, as of press time, although it was posted a week ago. No one expressed sympathy for the victim or concern that the suspects could strike again. As of today, the three unknown Sept. 11 suspects have not been caught and the cause “is still under investigation,” according to Interim Lincoln Police Chief Paul Shelgren. But Lincoln residents I talked to in July were outraged and shocked when a stranger unexpectedly shot and murdered 12 moviegoers and injured 59 others July 20 at an Aurora, Colo. movie screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” And we should be outraged. It means we have compassion. We also function under a code of decency that prevents us from hurting others, no matter how unhappy we are or how mad we are at a friend, family member or peer. What my Lincoln friends repeatedly told me in July was that violent instances happen elsewhere and not here in a small town where everyone cares about each other. That unfortunately is a myth today. Lincoln is not a small town anymore. The last Census figures put Lincoln at 43,000 residents. And we need to become outraged, just as we were outraged over the recent Colorado shooting, that several stabbings and shootings happen in Lincoln. That the as-yet unnamed Lincoln man was stabbed on Sept. 11 when three males, according to police, approached him on his porch, should make us sad. We are supposed to care about our neighbors. That in some cases, the victim and suspects know each other shouldn’t make us care any less. And that the violence occurred in the older part of Lincoln, in an area where most of the gang-related stabbings and shootings take place, shouldn’t discredit the fact that residents suffered life-threatening injuries. These victims are someone’s son, daughter, father, mother or friend. Assaults, including those with stabbings and shootings, are no longer rare in Lincoln. Even though city officials don’t like talking about them. This week, The News Messenger office manager/editorial assistant Shoni Jones compiled the violent crime stories we have run since 2006. The number of stories on area assaults, stabbings and shootings is disconcerting. And frightening. The real numbers are worse. Many crimes are not reported by victims because they don’t want the police involved. And the police usually don’t call The News Messenger when there are assaults, stabbings or shootings. Shoni’s research for 2012 included a story on the Sept. 11 stabbing, police log notes stating a male in August was taken to the hospital after been stabbed on Fourth Street, a March 19 stabbing of a 17-year-old on R Street and a shooting into an inhabited dwelling on 1600 First St. in January. We still have three months to go in 2012. For 2011, there were a December story about a suspect who turned himself in after stabbing his wife on the 400 block of Joiner, a November story about two Lincoln residents arrested for attempted murder in a Roseville stabbing, an August story about a July 25 gang shooter at the alley off of Sixth Street, an August murder/ suicide story about a husband and a wife, and a July 22 story about a warrant arrest issued for a June 16-year-old shooting suspect on First Street. The majority of these crimes are gang-related or domestic violence, according to Police Chief Shelgren. Innocent bystanders can be hit by a stray bullet or drawn in very quickly by these violent acts. “Very few of these were random situations. The big issue is we talk about prevention, how we stop it,” Shelgren said Tuesday. “It comes down to culture, changing people’s way of life. People have to take a stance and get themselves out of gang situations and domestic-violence situations. When you talk about domestic violence, we have tools and resources we can help them with but they have to take that stand to get out of it. They need to come forward so we can help them.” In the April 5 News Messenger, Shelgren said the 2011 police numbers of at least 50 Norteno and at least 50 Sureno gang members here “could be higher today.” A gang member told me that there are now Asian gangs in Lincoln. When I asked Shelgren what the gang member estimates are today, he said that “it’s possible those numbers have gone up.” What can we do as a community to prevent these crimes? “The only thing that can help us is awareness,” Shelgren said. “Be aware of your neighborhood and call us. We’ll do the absolute best we possibly can.” However, there are only 16 police officers on the street today due to budget cuts and we, on our own, should be able to refrain from violent actions. Anyone who doubts we have a violent crime problem here is welcome to check the list Shoni compiled during business hours at The News Messenger office. I like running columns in which a solution is offered. But I haven’t heard the “magic” answer yet on how to make violent crimes disappear. Mentioning there is a problem, though, is hopefully a start to finding a solution.