Herald-Sun editorial: Disturbing, destructive violent incidents continue

Dec. 31, 2012 @ 01:52 PM

The news media run the risk of not only making too much of criminal incidents, but also of failing to place them in the proper context.

A safe neighborhood does not make for a news story. When crime does not happen, there is nothing to report. Thus, the fact that our streets are mostly safe, nationwide, is something that a reader or viewer of daily news reports would not have a firm grasp on. That news consumer would instead point to the frequent reports of crime and violence and say, what safe neighborhoods?

Any violent crime committed locally generates some degree of attention, and that is perfectly warranted. Such acts, in addition to the pain they cause to those directly affected, strike at our shared sense of safety.

We do have safe neighborhoods and streets, for the most part, and that should be the context in which recent disturbing criminal acts are discussed.

Over the weekend, as the year came to a close, violent crime touched the Durham community.

Two reported shootings happened on Friday night. A male victim was shot in the 2900 block of Firth Road and was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. In a separate shooting, a female juvenile was shot at East Channing Court.

In an incident also on Friday night, a 35-year-old man, Johnny Danilo Villatoro, was shot and killed in an apparent carjacking.

That crime is deeply disturbing not only because of its violent nature, but also because of the ages of the alleged perpetrators: a 16-year-old boy, and two girls, ages 14 and 12.

We must continue to ask ourselves difficult questions in connection with these crimes. What is it that compels some young people to value human life so little? What confluence of factors leads to these irrevocable, shocking acts of violence.

Yes, poverty and home life can be factors. Access to weapons is a factor. But those factors are present in the lives of many young people, and few turn to violence.

If the solutions were simple, the problem would have long been solved. We must do what we can: promote education and mentoring, support parents who need a hand, and also support law enforcement’s efforts to curb violence.