Last month's shooting death and the circumstances surrounding it elicited a remarkable and passionate response from many of our friends and neighbors. We don't witness many violent crimes like that in our community, and when we do, residents want action and want it quick.
One of the side discussions to emerge from all that comment was about the prevalence of illicit drug activity in our region - and our anger about that, too. We know about the problem anecdotally, but there are numbers that back it up. The Kenai Police Department, for example, shows under the category of drug offense: 92 reports and 70 arrests in 2007; 109 reports and 84 arrests in 2008; and 123 reports and 110 arrests in 2009. Soldotna, while smaller in population and area, has its own problems, with 68 arrests in 2007; 70 arrests in 2008; and 76 arrests in 2009.
Some citizens might be quick to say that the cops aren't doing enough, that law enforcement needs to investigate more, arrest more. With all respect, we think that's a short-sighted response.
There are things you can do, if you aren't already, to be part of the solution. Our own local law enforcement folks have these suggestions:
Be a parent - Probably the front line in combating illegal drug use is keeping kids from even getting started. Parents need to talk with their kids, and there are plenty of resources available to help with that. Parents need to know their child's friends and acquaintances and know where their child is. Parents need to coach their kids on standing up to peer pressure. Parents should help their kids find positive activities like athletics, music or crafts.
It's not easy; it's hard. That's why it's worthwhile.
Report the crime - Believe it or not, in the course of reporting on last month's shooting, our reporters interviewed some residents who said they had seen drug activity in various neighborhoods but never bothered calling police (these are also folks who didn't want to be quoted in the paper).
Reporting a crime anonymously is easy. Go to www.peninsulacrimestoppers.com or call 1-800-478-HALT (4258). The website lets you leave a tip so that you don't even have to worry about voice recognition over the phone. Details are always helpful - license plate numbers, suspect descriptions, details of suspicious activity. If you are a witness, speak up.
Don't be a victim - When you fail to lock your home, business or vehicle, you just create a crime magnet for drug users who steal to make money to buy drugs. So lock up your stuff. And keep an eye out for your neighbors, too. Watch each others' backs, and call the cops when you see or hear anything that just doesn't seem right in the neighborhood.
We understand that there are members of the community who are already vigilant and responsible. To those folks we say thank you.
You others - quit griping and start helping.
In short: Don't like illegal drug activity? Then get involved and do something about it.
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