Column/Wanted: A new ‘sheriff’ in town

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 12, 2007

In my opinion, crime in our city has increased to the point where one might consider it to be an epidemic. Where’s Wyatt Earp when we need him?

Selma’s need for a new sheriff has nothing to do with you, Sheriff Huffman. I have heard nothing but good things about the job you have been doing for Dallas County for many years now. Unfortunately,

it seems to me that crime and drugs in our city have been an escalating problem since James Perkins became mayor. There’s a “we’re in charge attitude” among the perpetrators, I think.

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Not only have many of

Selma’s citizens, especially women, experienced personal attacks and robberies in their homes and cars in recent years, there has been a current rash of burglaries and vandalism involving places of business. People have told me that crime is just as bad in other towns. My interest involves stopping and jailing the lawbreakers in Selma.

One of the most egregious examples of crime was the armed robbery on Aug. 1, of the Selma Housing Development Corporation office (Woodrow East) in broad daylight. The Selma Times-Journal report quoted Lt. David Evans of the Selma Police Department that the “robbery occurred at approximately 5 p.m., and the police are looking for a black male in his early 20s.”

According to the report, the perpetrator made off with an undisclosed amount of cash and some checks. A possible tragedy was averted when a tenant walked in, thus causing the robber to flee the scene. There’s one thing about this incident I would almost bet on; the robbery was committed by a repeat offender and high school dropout.

What’s going on here that makes it easy for the local criminals and gangs to create such unlawful havoc with apparent impunity? With Chief Martin’s phony “resignation” and the fact that Martin is still in charge of the Selma Police Department, police officers are defecting in significant numbers and looking for employment elsewhere. It is reported that morale on the force is very low.

To offer adequate protection for its citizens, Selma needs approximately 70 certified officers but recent published reports show the current number of officers, operating out of vehicles, is only about 40. Why?

What are the primary causes for crime in our community? There are several in my opinion, and some, not all are listed below:

& Mayor Perkins has ignored his top responsibility, public safety, by not responding to the pressing needs of the Selma Police Department. Chief Martin resigned several weeks ago and should be long gone with an interim chief in charge. Since Martin’s “resignation” there have been numerous defections, and the police department is now badly understaffed, and has been for a long time under Perkins and Martin.

The mayor has had a community outreach program in place for a number of months now that’s called “TrustBuild.” To me, Trustbuild is a social engineering, bureaucratic boondoggle that is costing Selma’s taxpayers thousands of dollars per year. Unbelievably, TrustBuild entails a group of social workers that go around town, chauffeured by police officers, depriving the police department of much

needed manpower.

The TrustBuild workers’ so-called mission is to advise low-income citizens about any social services they might be missing out on. What the mayor is really doing here, I believe, is running a thinly-veiled reelection campaign. Of course, this huge expense should be converted to upgrading the police department in terms of personnel, headquarters, maintenance and equipment.

A very high percentage of Selma’s crime is drug-related and always has been. Many robberies are the result of drug users needing cash to feed their habit.

& Our police officers are doing the best they can in the face of deplorable conditions and almost no leadership, but many Selma citizens are moving away because of the crime situation and the overall negative city government situation

& The solutions to the crime in Selma need to involve many entities. An all-out campaign needs to be led by The Selma Times-Journal, whose mission statement includes, “to take an active leadership role in our community,” the Economic Development Authority(EDA), the Chamber of Commerce plus our church and business leaders, as well as all Selma citizens

who care about the future of Selma.

As mentioned frequently by me, our most critical need is to replace the current mayor with a strong, color-blind leader who will understand completely that his/her No. 1 priority is the public safety for our beloved community. The next election for mayor is one year from now.

If we do elect a new mayor, we may be able to find a Wyatt Earp-type tough guy to be the next police chief and bring Selma’s crime and drugs under control.

God bless Selma.

Byrd Looper is a regular columnist for The Times-Journal.