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STEPHEN HEMELT — Power of community needed to fight back against crime

It’s a whole community problem, so it’s going to take a whole community’s response to make even the slightest difference.

The concern at hand is violence, and more specifically, deadly violence.

Pick a town: Beaumont, Port Arthur, Nederland or Port Neches. Each has seen deadly shootings or stabbings, one involving a police officer-involved killing, over the short period a few weeks.

I know a lot people are clamoring for an end to 2020 and all of its issues; heck, I’m scaling back my wishes and just hoping the violence of November doesn’t bleed into December.

People are clearly anxious to breakout from government- and self-imposed lockdowns necessitated by COVID-19. This month, I witnessed fewer people wearing masks, following social distancing guidelines and business restriction of customers.

There is only so long people stay bottled up, and it seems our community’s criminal element is acting accordingly.

In Port Arthur, there were five homicides reported in the first 10 months of 2020. Then came a three-week stretch in November where three more were reported.

The violence has been worse with our neighbor to the north as Beaumont saw three killings in three days between Nov. 22-24.

The scenes are similar in Mid-County where police say two separate confrontations this month that started as domestic disturbances quickly escalated to deadly violence. Authorities say one involves a boyfriend suspected of killing his girlfriend in Port Neches. The other, authorities tell us, involves a domestic dispute from Port Neches that led to a police search in Nederland that tragically ended in the police-shooting of an armed suspect.

There don’t seem to be any pockets of tranquility between Mid-County and South County. It’s our collective problem, so if we want anything to change, it’s going to take a collective solution.

Our elected council representatives and mayors must call upon their cities’ respective law enforcement agencies to present the public with the most information possible concerning crime trends, dangerous locations and organized criminal elements so innocent bystanders can take every precaution possible to protect themselves and loved ones.

Conversely, community members who know the story of, at least part of the story, behind these killings must present that information to police officers.

Without community and witness participation, there is little chance we will see this wave of violence decrease anytime soon. If you see something, say something. It may be the very conversation that saves someone dear to you.

Community members can do great things when they come together for a common cause.

This year alone has shown tremendous, multi-cultural rallies that have effected major change across our national landscape.

Politicians quickly found out the people run this country; it’s certainly time for criminals to get the same message.

That’s a message that can’t be told; it’s got to be delivered.

We don’t deserve this violence. The victims that come from it do deserve justice.

The power to spotlight the wrongdoing comes from community members who know what’s going on, and they need to be aided 100 percent by elected leaders and law enforcement officers committed for justice to the victimized and safety of the innocent.

Without a major response from our silent majority, it’s too easy to see the troubles of 2020 and, more specifically, the violence of November continuing in the weeks and months ahead.

Stephen Hemelt is president of Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at 409-721-2445 or stephen.hemelt@panews.com.