OUR VIEW: Don't give into fear of crime

Reports of someone running through Bonita Lakes Mall with a gun, such as the account on page 1A today, and the daily law enforcement reports are the stuff that makes you want to stay in bed with the covers over your head.

Comments on social media decrying the decline of public safety exacerbate the problems of Meridian and Lauderdale County. Second- and third-hand experiences enumerate fears of going out at night, shopping at the mall, visiting the city, walking in the park …

As alarming as news of gun brandishing can be, we lament contributing to the community’s fear and change of habits. While potential danger from crime is real — the shooting death of a man Friday night on 17th Avenue is a grim reminder — we believe the perception of the problem has become much worse.

Those perceptions have motivated city and county residents to move away, change their habits and live in fear. And that’s not good.

The reality is only a few of the almost 80,000 people who live in Lauderdale County and shop, dine, attend concerts and movies, or walk in a park will ever experience a violent crime.

Yet the internet, however great a tool, has led us to believe every violent crime that has happened in the city, the state, the country, the world, is about to happen to us.

As a consequence of giving into our fears, we have lost our sense of community and have become tribal. We limit our contact to only our workplace, our school, our congregation, our club.

We stay indoors while home security signs outnumber children on our front lawns. We lose our trust in each other and give into fear of the unknown.

The Star acknowledges our role in causing some alarm. Our reports fuel community concern, especially for readers who stop at the headline, but we also hope we can dispel fears with deeper reporting and context.

We don’t wish to send you hiding under the covers. No, we encourage you to shop in Bonita Lakes Mall and at other local stores, dine out, fill your gas tank day or night, go to a show at the Riley Center or Temple Theatre, play in the parks, walk around your block, meet your neighbors.

Because, if you don’t do these things:

• The parks and the parking lots will become hangout spots. Weeds will grow.

• More mall stores will close and no investor will have an interest in replacing them.

• The restaurants will close and our options will dwindle.

• The shows will stop coming to Meridian and the theaters will close.

We encourage you to use common sense, know your surroundings and be cautious, but by all means get out and make a community again and be a catalyst for good.