The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Courier editorial: Plainfield violence not 'under control'

Courier News Editorial, Saturday, May 12, 2012 

A pair of shootings this week in Plainfield left one person dead and two others injured. That increases to at least 10 the number of people in the city who have been shot within the last month.

But Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs says do not fear.

“I’d like to assure the residents of Plainfield that this situation is under control,” she said Thursday after the latest incidents.

Is she kidding? At least 10 people shot within a month with no arrests, in a city that has been periodically plagued by violence for years, and it’s all under control? The mayor is insulting the public with that stance.

But that’s nothing new for Robinson-Briggs, who too often seems far more concerned with image than reality.

We can appreciate the desire of city officials to try to ease concerns about another prolonged outbreak of violence like the gang-related incidents that bloodied the city in late 2010 and 2011. Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig said most of the recent shootings do not appear to be linked to gangs, with several seemingly tied to robberies or attempted robberies. Investigations have also been hampered by uncooperative witnesses, he said.

Those aren’t terribly comforting words, however.

While no one wants gang warfare, residents can hardly feel more secure that the victims in a series of shootings appear to be largely random, and that authorities are having difficulty finding the shooters because few are willing to share what they know.

There are also concerns that the attacks aren’t as random as they might appear on the surface. Some Hispanic residents, for instance, believe their community has become a frequent target for such violence. The victim killed in this week’s shooting was reportedly a hardworking Hispanic immigrant with children — a description similar to at least three other murder victims in Plainfield in the last five years.

All of this leaves the public with a whole lot of unanswered questions about another wave of violence, with the backdrop of the city’s long legacy of mayhem only heightening the concerns. And yet the mayor simply claims that everything is under control. Sadly, there is no evidence of that.

The city’s leaders shouldn’t panic, of course. It’s natural in circumstances such as these to attempt to minimize public fears. But there’s a big difference between calm leadership and outright denial. Robinson-Briggs wasn’t just offering reassuring words — she was pretending that there’s really nothing to see here.

Plainfield’s history of violence is undeniable, and an element of danger remains very much a part of city life. Even a hint of a fresh outbreak is going to rightly put residents on alert. But that doesn’t mean nearly a dozen shooting victims within a month should be considered par for the course for the Queen City. The mayor should be conveying a sense of urgency in finding answers, not breezily dismissing any potential impact on public safety.

The city’s residents deserve better than that from their mayor.


Anonymous said...

She is an absolute disgrace to this city. I mean it. Random shootings and robberies, she has said nothing about any of it. She is suing the city council to protect her "reputation." Lets be real here, she is a joke.

Bob said...

True, so true. Many of us will not be subscribing to the on-line Courier and many do not get the hard copy each day. Too bad for us and the Courier.

Bob said...

Someone else sees what a joke this mayor is. I don't feel so alone now. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Relax its just an UPTICK

Anonymous said...

Well in all fairness last time she tried something she got a ration of trouble for the wbls debacle. She reacted to an emergency and got hell for it.

Anonymous said...

Gannett should be one to talk. They endorsed this mess of a mayor.

See how many extra papers Plainfield's issues sold you Gannett? Glad you're going under!