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We all are responsible for public safety

Recent events — a death resulting from a drive-by shooting and the robbery of a jewelry store in the early afternoon downtown — have some people raising concerns about protection provided by the Selma Police Department.

The important factor to remember here is not to panic, but calmly analyze the situations. Public safety has not gotten worse in the last few weeks. Public safety in Selma is an acknowledged issue and has been for a number of years.

The death of woman and the robbery of a jewelry store came back-to-back, drawing attention to the lawlessness that surrounds us. Step outside after 10 p.m. nearly any night of the week and especially on the weekends, and you’ll likely hear gunfire.

Police reports published each day in The Selma Times-Journal and on selmatimesjournal.com demonstrate the kinds of complaints received by the police department and the responses given to those complaints.

Recently, police chief William T. Riley III told the Selma City Council’s Public Safety Committee he remains understaffed. Riley explained he’s cautious, running each officer through a thorough background check and ensuring the officer is well trained. He is building a police force from the basics up.

Consider the police study released late in 2007 that pointed out Selma’s issues in public safety and with morale in the police department, which essentially said new leadership, better recruitment, higher pay and better background checks would put the department on the right basic footing.

Riley has come in. He has begun requesting higher pay, insisting on better training and hiring solid men and women to lead the department. He has re-instituted a drug unit that had not operated for 1 ½ years — with results.

Selma didn’t get into the situation of shaky public safety overnight. The city will not recover from its needs to provide better policing in a few months.

To begin a round of criticism of Riley and the police department or over dramatize the amount of crime in this city versus the police protection is repeating old patterns. It is imperative that each of us in our neighborhoods work with officers by watching out for our neighbors, forming organizations such as Neighborhood Watch and be very focused about providing for our safety.

Hooligans will not hold this city hostage if we work with our police officers and take necessary, legal precautions to protect ourselves.

Selma is not in the middle of a rampant crime wave. We need to understand that and work with our city for stronger public safety.