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Reassurance when violence spikes in city

Saturday, March 23, 2013 - 12:01 am

From time to time, violence peaks in a city – for no apparent reason – enough that people get worried. The fact that the mayor and the police chief felt the need to call a press conference to reassure residents is a sign that this week contained one of those peaks.

Despite five killings in seven days, Mayor Tom Henry said, the city is still safe, and people should feel reassured because the recent round of shootings was not random but the result of gangs, drugs and domestic violence.

“If you’re not involved in one of these things, you should be OK,” he said. “But if you see something, let the police know. When people work with police, we see positive results.”

But private violence has a way of spilling over into public spaces sometimes.

For example, to shoot and kill 49-year-old Jacqueline Bouvier Hardy Wednesday, Kenneth Knight pulled her off a Citilink bus in front of horrified bus passengers and nearby schoolchildren. And after that, he held a 3-year-old hostage for hours before police shot and killed him.

The mayor is right about citizen involvement, though. In two of the cases this week, tips from the public quickly led to suspects. That’s one of the reasons that of the nine city homicides this year so far, six have been solved and there are suspects in two others.

The violence this week may strengthen the administration’s resolve to use part of a planned income tax increase to beef up the police force. The Police Department is 21 officers below the 440 authorized, and more retirements are expected this year.