A 15 year-old girl shot and killed an 18 year-old Anacostia High School student the other day. Supposedly, it was an accident. The readily available guns in too many places is wiping out too many promising young lives.
Perhaps you missed that ugly news because, like me, you might be horribly, inexplicably but inextricably drawn to the Lululemon murder case. A young woman accused of murdering a co-worker. How to explain the terrible, murderous rage that left the victim’s skull completely bashed in, so many blows to the head that the cops say they can’t determine how many?
Farther out, in the relatively quiet environs of Olney, two men were shot to death this week in what may or may not be unrelated murders.
In nearby Prince Georges County, where I live, the homicide rate has skyrocketed this year.
I subscribe to the D.C. Police text alerts, and it seems like my phone is buzzing every other minute with news of some crime in the neighborhood. I get a daily “spotcrime” map on email that shows the type and location of crimes in a 25-mile radius. Those daily snapshots of the violence around us are very sobering.
We learn a great deal from studying the crime data. First, many thefts, robberies and assaults are random crimes of opportunity, victims targeted on the spur of the moment because they were in a vulnerable spot. Second, many violent crimes — rape, aggravated assault, murder — are acquaintance crimes, often not premeditated but the result of intoxication, drug use, out-of-control rage, revenge, emotional breakdown. (See this interesting article on Slate today about the fact that 85% or more of all homicides are committed by someone who knows the victim. It asks the provocative question: why are people “relieved” to know that the Lululemon murder was the act of a co-worker, not random masked men?)
Keeping an entire community of people safe from the harm emanating from the violence around us is a very grave responsibility. Here at Trinity, we spend a great deal of money, and even more intellectual and emotional energy, in a daily (hourly!) effort to keep the random street criminals away while also remaining vigilant about the potential for social breakdown leading to violence among acquaintances here.
I can hardly expect students to appreciate how much time and real effort we concentrate on their health and safety, but such concerns are central to the work of most administrators here. When we have to enforce stricter measures to ensure campus safety, we are acting out of genuine care and concern for the human lives on this campus. We are not trying to make students miserable or to thwart their fun or freedom. We are trying to keep everyone safe from dangers that are quite real in the contemporary environment.
As a college that seeks to be a witness for social justice in our world, I would welcome student and faculty initiatives that take a serious look at the prevalence of violence and its causes in DC and our region. Whether criminal justice majors, or psychology, or political science or education or business and biology, everyone has something significant to contribute to the development of solutions for the terrible social disease of violence.
What solutions can you offer to the violence around us? Please post your comments by clicking on the “comments” link below…