An inauspicious beginning to the new year

Crime scene investigators collect evidence in the parking lot of Barberitos at 3123 Watson Boulevard after a worker was killed and another injured in an armed robbery Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018.
Crime scene investigators collect evidence in the parking lot of Barberitos at 3123 Watson Boulevard after a worker was killed and another injured in an armed robbery Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. Telegraph file photo

The new year has had an inauspicious beginning. Violence doesn’t check the calendar, or turn over a new leaf or adhere to New Year’s Resolutions. Nor does it care a whit about imaginary boundary lines between jurisdictions.

Ida Mae Ford was Bibb’s first homicide of the new year. Ford, 49, and mother of six, was shot to death near her home on Winship Avenue on Jan. 9. Two days later, Jeffery McKuhen was found dead by “violent” means, according to the deputy coroner, in a blighted house on Houston Avenue.

In Houston County the carnage started on Jan. 12 when an employee for the Warner Robins Public Works Department, Vincent D. Junior , 28, was shot to death inside his Tanglewood apartment. On Jan. 14, Jack Kumar Patel, 25, was working at the Food Mart #3 on Elberta Road when he was shot and killed. Seven days later, Parker K. Moore was shot and killed during a robbery at Barberitos. The perpetrator also shot another employee. Police believe the same person may have committed all three crimes.

The murder spree, coming so close together, has inspired Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms to consider asking City Council to lift the ban on city employees carrying weapons. “I’m dang tired of being a sitting duck,” he said. “It’s time that we took back our community, and whatever it takes I’m going to support,” Toms said.

He also encouraged Warner Robins citizens to get a gun carry permit and safety training on the use of a firearm. “We need to stand up for our city and let those criminal-minded individuals know that we will fight for the safety of our community and the safety of our families, and we are serious about it.”

We appreciate the mayor’s passion. Warner Robins only experienced six murders in 2016 and six in 2017. Three in one month is unheard of and everyone is jittery, but law enforcement may not appreciate help from citizens. They have a difficult enough job deciphering who are the good guys when rolling up to a crime scene. While we believe in the Second Amendment, we would stress the training part of the mayor’s message.

Certified law enforcement officers in this state are some of the best trained in the country. Hours upon hours are spent honing their skills with firearms and, most important, the split-second decision of squeezing the trigger — or not.

The mayor’s idea about employees carrying weapons should also require a training component — with regular review and practice. Otherwise, the liability door is propped open. There should also be policies in place for employees that decide to bring a weapon to work. Human resource professionals should have input for obvious reasons, otherwise the city attorney might spend his days — and nights — handling hostile workplace claims.

While Warner Robins had one unsolved 2017 murder out of six, Bibb County had 12 out of 30 homicides. Every case is completely different. Each case takes time and good investigative work, but clearly, the increase crime stretches the talent pool thin.

But the number of crimes is also indicative of the state of our society. No area is safe. Houston County deputies have been sounding that horn for years. Houston County residents, though they look askance at Bibb County’s crime statistics, don’t realize how much cross pollination there is in the criminal community. Criminals look for opportunities to commit crimes, not at imaginary county boundaries. And that’s why, even in the midst of mayhem, the Middle Georgia law enforcement community works as a team to bring these people to justice.