Nobody promised preserving our civil society would be easy.
Two young males dressed in hoodies and blue jeans with their faces covered shot Meridian civil rights leader Roscoe Jones while trying to steal his car. A 16-year-old youth was arrested for gunning down an 87-year old man in broad daylight in a Meridian grocery store parking lot. Two juveniles threw a molotov cocktail into a Meridian housing project, destroying eight apartments.
These are just a few of the violent juvenile crime incidents that continue to daunt Meridian and Lauderdale County, especially after the shutdown of the city-county juvenile center by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Repeat offenders are a challenge too. The 16-year-old arrested for killing the 87-year-old man had on an ankle bracelet and was being monitored by the youth court. A 29-year-old man arrested for the murder of a 19-year-old youth was out on bond for two counts of aggravated assault.
Sheriff Billy Sollie told WTOK-TV: "We all know that we have a small number of people here in the Meridian-Lauderdale County area committing a large number of offenses. These offenders know that the system is broke….Individuals receive very minimal sentences and are back on the streets again within a year, recommitting offenses again."
“With a crime rate of 57 per one thousand residents, Meridian has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes,” says the NeighborhoodScout.com website. “One's chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 17. Within Mississippi, more than 92% of the communities have a lower crime rate than Meridian.” Here are rates for other cities: Madison (9); Brandon (11); Hernando (22); Oxford (26); Tupelo (55); Gulfport (58); Hattiesburg (60); Greenwood (65); Jackson (78).
One Meridian response has been “Stop the Violence” rallies featuring young people.
"Sixth grade, I was asked to be in a gang. I actually thought about doing it, just to fit in," Joshua Lyons told WTOK-TV. "But my parents raised me better, and I knew it wasn't for me."
Joshua and others like him choose our civil society. But, too many, particularly those from poverty situations, choose gangs, gangs that have no respect for our civil society, no allegiance to God and country, no consciousness of order or virtue.
Again, as Ronald Reagan said, “There can be no freedom without order, and there is no order without virtue.” The Justice Department, in effect, said that Meridian and Lauderdale County’s juvenile system for imposing order operated without virtue.
Few communities with high poverty rates, including Meridian and Lauderdale County, are willing to commit the resources, manpower, and facilities needed to impose order in a virtuous way.
Like all patriots, we must make sacrifices to preserve our civil society.
Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (email@example.com)