Sign of the times

Sign of the times

Big debate underway in Roanoke right now over whether or not the city is a dangerous place to live.

A real estate blog says Roanoke had the highest crime rate among 37 cities in Virginia in 2012.

Law enforcement authorities say otherwise, claiming violent crime dropped 41 percent that year compared to 2005.

As Mark Twain once observed:  “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies and statistics.”

A photographer friend who works for The Roanoke Times says the paper should be called “The Crime Times” because so much space is dedicated to stories about those who either break the law or find themselves victimized.

Roanoke deputy police chief Tim Jones blames the media because of the concentration of news about crime.

Stories about crime do dominate news, not only in Roanoke but also in surrounding communities like Floyd County.  Circuit Court took up two days this week in Floyd, a town where that court used to meet just twice a month.

On Monday, I started the day with a jury trial against Bobby Lee Pack, a local charged with five felonies that involved production of the highly-addictive crystal methamphetamine that both Sheriff Shannon Zeman and Judge Marc Long calls “an epidemic” in the county.

Tuesday was a “normal” day for the court with the usual round of cases involving malicious wounding, grand larceny, drug manufacturing, prescription drug fraud and probation violations.

Illegal drug use, manufacturing and distribution are rampant in rural areas like Floyd County and an increase in drugs brings a hike in other crimes like break-ins, grand larceny and theft to support drug habits.

The Floyd County Sheriff’s Department does a good job of tracking down and arresting those who break the law.  Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Shortt has a good record of prosecution and Long is a tough judge.

But Zeman needs more deputies, patrol cars and resources.  Shortt needs a full-time assistant prosecutor.  She most likely will get funds to keep a part-time assistant on board for another year.  Circuit Court now meets weekly and sometimes more than once a week.

With crime is rampant here in a rural setting, it stands to reason that it also is a problem in the Roanoke metropolitan area where the population is ten times higher and propensity for illegal activity more available.

Is it crime time in Southwestern Virginia?

Yep.  In the old TV series Baretta, actor Robert Blake, who played the title character, used to say: “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

Nowadays, dealing with crime keeps some of us so busy that we don’t have time for it or anything else.

Anything we can do about it?

Good question.

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