Last Friday the Covington Police Department held a safety awareness meeting, one they hoped would help ease the fears of residents scared at the increase in crime in this county’s seat.
It seems Covington has been plagued with criminals running rampant, and between the armed robbery at a local drugstore and a break-in at City Hall, shoot-outs in the suburbs and cars being set on fire after drug deals gone bad, residents and police alike have had enough.
And Covington Alderman Tommy Hatcher? Well, he’s had enough of my reports, specifically speaking of the stories I’ve written where I’ve made Covington police officers out to be lazy, donut-eaters taking Sunday drives through the projects just to waste their shift.
Hatcher has, on more than one occasion, stepped up on his soapbox and said, “this dadgumit newspaper we got here makes it seem like our officers aren’t working!”
He did this very thing at the meeting Friday, then proceeded to go on a tirade about how much these officers do, in fact, work and how much pressure they’re under by both the city officials and the residents of Covington.
Mr. Hatcher has not, however, said this to me directly. And I’m not even certain he knows I was in Friday’s meeting to hear it for myself. (Hi, Mr. Hatcher! I was in the back.)
This dadgumit newspaper, however, has never printed such a thing and it has never been inferred, either.
The story to which Mr. Hatcher is referring is one written earlier this month about the increase in crimes called “What’s going on?” In it, I listed various crimes committed in a short span of time, crimes that were the subject of much gossip in the county, crimes that were scaring this city’s residents to the point where two young girls were sleeping on the floor of their rooms because their neighbors had taken up shooting several dozen rounds of gunfire when they felt like it. And these crimes, when that newspaper went to press, had not been solved.
That was the truth.
This week, I sat down with police chief Tim Glass and went over the list: the armed robbery at Rite-Aid was solved when fugitive Donny Greenhaw confessed to it weeks ago, and arrests have been made in other crimes, such as the neighbors shooting and setting cars on fire (and there has been no problem since the arrest, said Glass). No arrest has yet been made in the City Hall break-in, however.
In fact, year-to-date, only 10 percent of burglaries in this city have been solved and there are plenty of other unsolved crimes, including the murder of Darius “Dee Dee” Heaston in 2011.
This, unfortunately, reflects poorly upon the police, but thankfully this dadgumit news editor knows the fault cannot rest solely upon them.
In a city where a $100 bill used to bring in enough tips to solve any crime, according to Chief Glass, there is a murder whose $7,500 reward has not brought in one single tip.
That murder was committed by a man standing in Alderman Shelvie Rose’s yard. That man shot into a park filled with dozens of people, but no one’s talking. No one’s seen anything, they say.
And that – no one seeing anything, no one knowing anything about any crime – is one of this department’s biggest hurdles.
Another hurdle they face is the recidivism rate. Police say persons who’ve been arrested, because they have the right to a fair trial for each and every charge, can be bonded out of jail before police reports can be fully completed. When they go to court it’s often difficult to get a strict sentence, meaning a slap on the wrist, and the offender continues to offend, to break laws, to make the residents of Covington victims of their crimes.
The cycle continues: when these offenders are back out on the streets and commit more crimes, they’re not just driving the crime rate up, they’re keeping the department’s solve rate low because, still, “no one knows anything.”
But I know someone knows something.
A low solve rate makes it appear Covington is an unsafe city. Is it? Do you want that reputation for your hometown?
If you see something, say something. If you hear something, say something. If you know something, anything, say something.
You can call the sergeant on duty any time, anonymously if you’d like, at 901-201-7573.
This dadgumit newspaper knows the police in this city work hard, and they work too dadgumit hard to have so many unsolved cases.
Let these criminals know you’ve really had enough. Your call just might reduce the dadgumit crime here.
This column was published in The Leader on Aug. 17, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Leader/Echo Day. Not to be republished without written consent.