Everybody over there (get on up), everybody right there (get into it), everybody over there (get involved).
— James Brown
Sadly, the people of this community have become desensitized to the rampant crime that, despite trumpeted statistics that suggest otherwise, is not declining.
People in Albany and Dougherty County see the latest 60-point, attention-grabbing headline, read the daily police logs and weekly jail reports, or watch the blue-light-tinted nightly TV newscasts and they react with an indifference that is almost as frightening as the growing crime rate.
“Let’s see who tonight’s victims are,” residents say with a resignation that speaks volumes: Same old story, different names.
But every now and then a crime is committed that is so disturbing, so frighteningly random, that even the jaded citizens of the so-called Good Life City can’t help but take notice. And so it was Monday, when Lance Larson was attacked for no reason and stabbed while walking along 12th Avenue.
Larson, who is mildly autistic, is a fixture in Albany, almost as much a part of the landscape as Riverfront Park, the East Albany sand dunes or the Flint River. It’s a rare member of the community who hasn’t seen Larson walking along one of the local thoroughfares, his brisk pace and intense concentration indicative of someone who has places to be and things to do.
Members of the local Bo Henry Band “adopted” Larson, signing him on as tambourine player, and Larson is a fixture at Henry’s Harvest Moon restaurant on Dawson Road. Above all else, it’s Larson’s sweet nature that stands out among those who know him.
That’s why the unprovoked attack Monday has so outraged the community. Henry has put up his own money as a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who stabbed Larson, and more than a few local citizens have discovered an antidote for their “another-day, another-crime” malaise. In the wake of the random attack, many are calling for an increased effort by local law enforcement to deal more harshly with the entrenched criminal element in the community.
As much as we hate to admit it, crime has always been “someone else’s problem.” It’s another story in the newspaper, another sound bite on TV until it hits close to home.
We have a tendency to stand on the sidelines and condemn our law enforcement agencies as they deal with a crime that has happened to someone else, but we cling to them and demand their undivided respect and attention when we or someone we love is the victim.
Larson told Herald police reporter Pete Skiba, “It is time for us to take back this town from thugs and make it safe,” after he was treated for stab wounds to his neck, back and arm. That sentiment — and other responses less calm and more unprintable — has pervaded as news of the attack spread.
But an innocent man like Larson should not have to be injured for us to show interest in the community’s crime rate. And a 14-year-old kid like James Anderson shouldn’t have to be shot and killed for us to demand that officials more aggressively pursue the criminal element whose roots are embedded in the soil as deeply as some of the towering pines that define the region.
It’s easy enough to trumpet the perceived incompetence of law enforcement in a community where crime is an epidemic. It’s a lot tougher to actively do something: to join a neighborhood watch group, to call police and report suspicious activity, to petition leaders for better pay and equipment for the men and women in blue.
No one wants to get involved. But then Lance Larson didn’t want to get involved with the low-life who stabbed him Monday. Sometimes you just have no choice.
Email Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.