Troy Williams Community Advisory Board
Fayetteville is listed on the CBS News Murder Map: Deadliest U.S. Cities.
The story targeting 65 major U.S. cities was published in April 2021, and Fayetteville is ranked 55, with 12.7 murders per 100,000. It’s not good news for our community, already struggling with crime, and it gets worse. CBS’s map is based on 2019 data. An uptick in 2020 moved Fayetteville from 12 to 16 murders per 100,000; in 2021, the number will likely exceed 20 murders per 100,000.
The numbers are concerning. Raleigh did not make a murder list, and Fayetteville is ranked higher than Charlotte.
The surge in homicides is hard to explain. A preliminary FBI report indicates murders nationwide started increasing in the first half of 2020, around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a bunch of causal theories applying the best evidence, research and statistical data available, ranging from policing changes and even video game usage. But there’s no consensus as to the causes.
Perhaps it’s time to have a community conversation. Not to point fingers but rather to discuss solutions. What we don’t want to do is “normalize” criminal behavior as some other communities have. Normalizing behaviors include: Avoiding specific neighborhoods, living our lives on constant “lockdown,” buying more guns and alarm systems, and moving to gated communities or deciding to move away, period.
Recently, in a private setting, I acknowledged to an older Black guy that I once was in law enforcement, and he scoffed, adding comments to let me know he didn’t appreciate my service. We had never met before, and he was “throwing shade” at someone who took an oath to protect him and his family.
He’s entitled to his opinion about cops, but I don’t understand the lack of balance with some people. We all can admit some bad cops should have never been in uniform. However, most people who carry a badge and a gun are good people trying to do a difficult job.
What about the drug dealers? Where is the equal disdain for them? After all, they’re the ones trafficking poison into Black neighborhoods and recruiting our youngsters as accomplices in their criminal enterprises.
Furthermore, the drug trade is directly responsible for an overwhelming number of African Americans killed by gun violence in our city. When murders occur in Black neighborhoods, some people freeze up and refuse to cooperate and talk to the police. That’s understandable because some folks are worried about retaliation. Conversely, I don’t understand some people who seem more interested in protecting their reputation and concerned about being called a snitch.
Over 80% of the homicide victims in Fayetteville are Black, and we live in a community that won’t have a frank discussion about it. One of the main reasons is because some politicians and their supporters claim talking about community crime is a “racist dog whistle,” a coded message to scare white people. Politically speaking, the phrase is a cliché.
For instance, immigration is supposed to be a dog-whistle issue. The concept of “Black-on-Black” crime is another example. If a white person uses this phrase, they will be accused of using a dog whistle. Obviously, we won’t be able to move forward if we are a divided community. I’m not suggesting we should be petrified, but I believe there should be a healthy level of concern for the rising murder rate from all Fayetteville citizens. Hopefully, you understand my point.
Getting off the CBS News Murder Map list as one of America’s deadliest cities should be a high priority. Fayetteville needs visionary leadership to help us get there, which we may be currently lacking. There’s success for our future if we collaborate, put aside our political differences, and unify. There’s failure awaiting us if we continue along the same old path.
When we decide enough is enough, we will take our community back, block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood — until violence is no longer an option.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.