Although our crime rates are high, our police are mighty and just and are on the ground working to solve our problems. I recently met with the Deputy Chief of Police in Hickory, Deputy Reed Baer, and we talked about the drug problem here and the larceny that causes, and I left the meeting feeling incredibly safe and protected, and knowing that we have the right people at the right time to fix these problems.
One thing he said really stuck out to me and signals a change in policing that I am 100% here for.
"Not every nail needs a hammer." Deputy Reed Baer
A simple statement for sure, but it's profound because it shows that the police force absolutely knows that they do not need to approach every situation with guns drawn and tensions high. The department is working to HELP people who are drug-addicted instead of automatically aiming for prison time.
Although our opioid problem gets a lot of press (5th in the nation according to some sources) it's our METH problem that is hurting our city the most. Meth is a vicious drug and as its popularity rises, so do our crime rates, mostly because of larceny related to the drug. The police force is very aware of the problem and is putting a lot of focus on ending the problem.
Our crime rates look very high on paper, and they really truly ARE high. But you don't really need to be worried about being murdered or attacked here, any more than you'd worry most places...just be sure to lock your doors, because drug-addicted people often turn to theft to support their habit. I'm of the opinion you can't use force to get people off drugs, which is why the quote from Deputy Reed Baer hit me so hard. I think they're really on the right track.
Meanwhile, we've also had a very positive change at the county level. Sheriff Don Brown is fixing a lot of damage caused by the scandals of the previous leadership and his family. I was lucky enough to hear him speak last week at our Rotary meeting, and his comments brought me a lot of peace as well. The most exciting thing I learned from him is that his department is focusing on teamwork, and working with other groups, like the SBI, ATF, and FBI, as well as the other police forces in the area. Notably, each of those groups has a key to the Sheriff's office and is welcome at all times. This is such a positive change since the presence of the SBI in recent years has been because people in the department were being investigated, NOT because they were working together.
To me, this cooperation is a very big deal, and it takes some of the pressure off of the department to solve every problem themselves. Sheriff Brown has spent his first year working smart, and that is making the whole county safer.
When I look around the world in 2019, I see that there are a lot of corrupt police officers working in our country, and every few weeks, you hear about another misdeed by one of those people. It's led to a nationwide environment where people are scared of the police. Just this week a police officer shot a woman through her own window without warning. These national stories DO NOT reflect our local force. Deputy Baer and I talked briefly about these "bad cops" and his thoughts lined up with mine: there are bad police officers just like there are bad people in every job, but they aren't the majority. He says, "Bad cops should be fired," and I'm confident that's what happens here these days.
Our police forces are being run by good, proactive people, and they are equipped to handle our crime problems. In fact, our crime rate for last year and this year are lower than they have been in many years, and the new strategies are working. I suspect that our crime rate will begin to fall even quicker and in more noticeable ways in the near future.