03/20/08 — Tough stance: Want to really impact crime? Let criminals know.

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Tough stance: Want to really impact crime? Let criminals know.

It must be frustrating being a law enforcement officer these days.

You see the same faces, same offenses and face the same dangers. You close down one drug dealer and another pops up around the corner.

You trust the justice system to take serious and repeat offenders and put them away, but then they are back on the streets again — with escalating offenses.

The rights all seem to be for the accused. Law enforcement officers are under intense scrutiny for their arrest methods, their search procedures and for the way they conduct themselves as they do their job.

Yet, the dangers these officers face every day seem to be minimized. A police abuse case makes the headlines, but the number of officers who narrowly escape serious injury or who are killed in the line of duty rarely gets as much attention.

It might seem a bit like the criminals are winning.

If Americans are serious about changing the crime statistics in their communities, they have to change their way of thinking when it comes to crime and punishment.

There might be mistakes in the administration of justice, but they are still rare.

Most of the men and women who are in jail now or who are on police radar are repeat offenders with little to no fear of law enforcement or the justice system.

And if we are going to take back our communities, we have to start giving law enforcement officials and the courts the power they need to take dangerous criminals off the streets and keep them off.

That means stiffer sentences, more public proceedings and more support for investigation and enforcement.

We need to protect those who stand up and identify violators in their communities, and to make sure that once we get a criminal in custody, that he or she stays there.

In other words, we have to talk tough, and mean it.

The teenager who has been indicted in the brutal murder of University of North Carolina student Eve Carson was a repeat offender — with a pretty significant criminal resume. He shouldn’t have been on the street. He should have been in a jail cell.

Figuring out why he wasn’t might be a very significant first step in determining where we need to go next as we strive to make this state a safer place to live.

And it might even make the state’s law enforcement officers feel a little better about their jobs.

Published in Editorials on March 20, 2008 10:56 AM