Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 14, 2014

MARK HEINIG: Hoosiers in need of answers concerning public safety

Pence could use plan to replace revenue from tax cut.

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Violent crimes seem to be happening everywhere! Reports of murders, armed robberies, home invasions and other potentially deadly offenses fill the pages of our newspapers and consume hours of broadcast time. Although these reports provide evidence of a sharp increase in violence, they don’t offer absolute proof.

There are precious few absolutes when we consider human problems. However, the only Americans who don’t absolutely condemn violent crime are the criminals themselves. We never hear from them, unless they get arrested. Many violent crimes are drug-related or acts of passion. The only remedies for those offenses may be stricter law enforcement, harsher sentences and psychological or spiritual counseling.

Senior citizens are easy prey for criminals both on the streets and at home. They are more vulnerable than younger people. As the years pass, they slowly lose the physical ability to resist or flee from violence. That makes them ideal targets for criminals who often rely on violence or the threat of violence to successfully commit their crimes.

Some folks hope to protect themselves with a gun. I don’t recommend that. My father was a cop. I grew up around guns, and he taught me how to use them. But knowing how to shoot does not mean you know when to shoot! Only seasoned law enforcement officers and combat veterans who have used guns under stress know when to use them and when not to!

If you shoot at the wrong time and hit the wrong person, you may make yourself a criminal. With or without a gun, resisting violent criminals is a huge risk. It should be your last resort. If you think your adversary may endanger you or someone else, the safest response is usually to give the crook what he wants! Of course, there are exceptions. I know one young couple who forcibly subdued an intruder in their own home, where their children were sleeping, and detained him until the police came. That’s different!

The prospect of a home invasion can be very intimidating to Hoosiers of any age. Has authorizing our police officers to enter homes without warrants helped? No one should resist a police officer, but how do we know the person forcing his way in is really a cop and not a home invader? I don’t have the solution to that problem, but I think we need to find one.

We also need answers to questions about the “knockout game.” We don’t know how often it happens or why it occurs. We do know that it is extremely dangerous. Often, the victim doesn’t recognize the threat before being attacked. It is a brutal, senseless, unpredictable and random crime.

I have another concern about public safety. It isn’t a crime at all, but it could lead to more violent crimes. Gov. Pence’s attempt to end the business equipment tax alarms voters. Hoosiers don’t usually oppose a tax cut, but this one troubles local political leaders of both parties. They don’t think they can compensate for the lost revenue without limiting services and reducing personnel.

For example, Mayor Duke Bennett says Terre Haute already has squeezed everything possible from the current budget. The next step would be layoffs in the fire and police departments. Bennett is a very effective leader. In a city full of ardent Democrats, he was the first Republican mayor to win a second term in more than 80 years. Whenever a leader of that caliber worries about a problem, it’s a serious problem.

I agree. Can fire departments save as many people and buildings with fewer firemen and less equipment? How can fewer police officers with larger patrol areas maintain our current level of protection? Reserve police officers do their best, but it’s not the same.

Can anybody recommend a good podiatrist for Gov. Pence? He may need one. I think he is shooting himself in the foot by trying to end the business equipment tax! Worse yet, he could destroy the future political prospects of many talented Republican candidates like Duke Bennett. I don’t think local community leaders would fight so hard to keep this tax if the governor had a practical plan to replace the lost funds. Many of them might even support him then.

Mark Heinig Jr. of Kokomo is a retired Indiana teacher and principal. Contact him at markjr1708@gmail.com.