Vote Yes Fayetteville

Are perception, reality converging?

Fayetteville Observer – April 10, 2021

A lot of Americans are persuaded that crime is on the rise in the U.S. However, many of the experts say they are wrong. But how do you squash someone’s fears? Statistically, reported crime is down, but Americans still don’t feel safe. It’s puzzling : Perception vs. reality – and a growing number of citizens remain convinced that crime is an increasing problem.

Surveys also reveal that African Americans generally feel less safe than their white counterparts. Do Black communities have higher crime rates, or are there racial stereotypes in play?

In the early 2000s, when I worked for a nonprofit on Murchison Road, I experienced first-hand white avoidance by some businesses because of the community’s racial composition and reputation for crime and violence. I worked after 5 p.m. one workday with some colleagues, and I volunteered to order a pizza. My colleagues starting laughing, saying I wouldn’t be able to get it delivered because our office had a Murchison Road address. I didn’t believe them and placed the order anyway, only to discover that I couldn’t get multiple restaurants to make a delivery in that community. I was surprised. Since the mid-1970s, I had lived off Ramsey Street near Pine Forest High School and had never experienced this type of discrimination. However, I admit, I did feel safer on north Ramsey than I did on Murchison Road.

Dr. Elmore Lowery, a Fayetteville resident for over 20 years and a former assistant special agent in Charge with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, said: “Every citizen has the right to feel safe and secure within their home, place of business and community. Social media have given us extended access to criminal violence, thus increasing our fears.”

Is Fayetteville a safe place to live? A Google search says Fayetteville

is safer than 7% of the cities in the United States, and that you have a 1-in-21 chance of becoming a victim of a crime. Negative crime statistics are not necessarily a knock on the police, however. Crime is a community problem, and police can’t arrest our way out of it.

“Open communication and access to statistical reports may relieve some of our fears as it relates to crime. Having made this statement, everyone must remain vigilant at all times,” Dr. Lowery concluded.

Last month, a 53-year-old male cancer patient was attacked outside a Fayetteville discount store on Owen Drive. The victim was followed out of the store and brutally attacked by three young men in a handicapped parking space. The victim later died.

The brazen attack in broad daylight ought to concern the whole community. These kinds of crimes are not the norm for Fayetteville.

A crime tipping point?

Former Mayor Tony Chavonne said the tipping point for him was the night of May 30 of last year, when rioters converged on downtown Fayetteville protesting George Floyd’s death. Chavonne was out of town when he received a frantic call from his wife describing someone trying to burn down the Market House. He advised her to stay calm and assured her that public safety officers would address the situation and restore order.

Well, the 911 calls were never answered. Fortunately, Mrs. Chavonne was able to navigate safely out of the downtown area that night. Chavonne said: “My heart was broken that night, not just for the threat to my family or the attempted damage of the downtown so many had committed their lives to build, but for the divide the incident was sure to bring to our city.”

Is there an increase in murders and higher crimes, and is there a correlation to an understaffed Fayetteville police force? I suspect Chief Gina Hawkins will be addressing these issues with the City Council in the near future.

“The safety and security of its citizens is the

number one responsibility of local government. It is, in fact, the number one goal in the Fayetteville City Council Strategic Plan,” Chavonne said.

Chavonne declares that concern for public safety is what bought him back into the political game. Perceptions and attitudes about crime and safety are nothing new. And when it comes to crime, perception is reality because fear of crime and victimization is a part of life satisfaction. Perhaps, it’s time for all of us to roll up our sleeves and fight the good fight to make our community safer and better.

Troy Williams is a member of The Fayetteville Observer Community Advisory Board. He is a legal analyst and criminal defense investigator. He can be reached at talk2troywilliams@yahoo.com.

Troy Williams

Columnist