Local News

Editorial: Fear is the norm, unity the response in Fayetteville

Posted November 17, 2013

A message from Michael Adams, executive editor of The Fayetteville Observer:

For too long, living with crime and the fear that accompanies it has been the norm in Fayetteville.

Perhaps for most of us, the fear is little more than a nagging concern, enough to prompt us to install an alarm system, avoid certain parts of the city at certain times, even buy a gun for protection. For too many, though, it is a deeper worry that keeps us trapped in our homes, afraid and angry about what has happened to our community.

There was a time, maybe in our memory, maybe only in the stories told by our parents, when such fear barely existed. A time when we left our doors unlocked, when we didn’t worry about where our children were playing, when our schools didn’t need metal detectors.

But in the years since then, we have adjusted to the crime. We’ve accepted 4,000 break-ins, 8,000 thefts, 1,000 robberies and assaults a year as an unpleasant part of life in Fayetteville. We’ve shrugged and, with a survivor’s wry pride, called our home “Fayettenam.”

But it is increasingly clear that we are tired of adjusting. From the Police Department, from City Hall, from election campaigns and from community forums, we’ve heard a consistent message: We’re fed up with crime. We want answers.

Today, The Fayetteville Observer joins the search for solutions. We are calling our effort “Seeking Safety.” That’s what people really want, to feel safe in their own community.

Over the years, our staff has become adept at a particular type of reporting: We can dig into issues, expose problems, explain why things are broken. We are, as our newspaper masthead suggests, an observer. It is a role we are proud of and which we will continue to play.

But this crime problem demands a new approach. We have to be willing to get off the sidelines, to do more than just report all the things that are wrong, that are creating Fayetteville’s climate of fear.

So we are going to spend the next year looking at crime from a new angle. We will examine programs and efforts here and across the country, looking for strategies that are working. Our focus will be on finding real-world solutions that are applicable to Fayetteville. We will seek ideas from experts and from people who know what it is like to live in crime-ridden communities.

Our reporting will ask tough questions and challenge leaders when they talk about obstacles rather than opportunities.

One of the reasons I’ve spent 26 years — all of my adult working life — in newsrooms is that I believe newspapers can make a difference. Specifically, I believe our newspaper can make a difference in this community.

We are going to put that belief to the test over the next year. Because on this story, we are aiming to create momentum and action. We want to help drag that burden of fear off Fayetteville.

Greg Barnes, who has won numerous awards as a writer and an editor, will lead our reporting effort. He has already spent weeks talking to city leaders, police, school officials, mentors and crime victims, listening to their stories and ideas.
Today’s story, laying out the problem and the need for the community to come together to work on it, launches our project. Next month, he will have the first installment in our search for meaningful solutions.

Police reporter Nancy McCleary will also be a regular contributor to the project. Beginning in late November and every two weeks after that, she will be sharing tips on personal safety and ideas about how residents across the community can get involved in crime-prevention efforts.

We’re doing all of this in a partnership with WRAL News. That partnership will combine the best of both of our news organizations to share the search for solutions with a larger audience than either of us could do separately.

This project, this year spent seeking answers, is going to depend as much on you as it is on our efforts. Your stories and ideas will help make it meaningful. Your willingness to step up when solutions are apparent will give it life beyond our newspaper pages.

Earlier this month, at a rally organized by ministers to call for an end to violence in the city, Police Chief Harold Medlock said it is going to take the whole community coming together to make this a safer city.

With “Seeking Safety,” we intend to be part of that process.


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