So, yes, I did indeed head over to 1500 Marilla for today's Public Safety Committee meeting, where the highlights had very little to do with crime-stat bookkeeping. Instead, I filed my notepad with excerpts from one of Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway regularly scheduled sermons, this one dealing with everything from "midnight" basketball leagues and handgun acquisition to 24-hour tobacco shops and crack cocaine.
After outgoing DPD Chief David Kunkle presented the year-to-date stats, Caraway took the floor. At that point, the chair of the committee made mention of some recent murders and asked Kunkle: "How and where are they getting these guns?" But it was less a question than an extended speech -- "I'm just on a gun tear this morning," said Caraway, "I'm sorry" -- from the very man who's led two gun buy-backs thus far.
"Let's talk about the acquisition of handguns - get in-depth," Caraway urged. He said he wanted to know how to "trace, track and prevent the illegal acquisition of handguns." He name-dropped would-be handgun suppliers -- such as, "pawn shops, gun shows and the black market" -- and asked if looking at those businesses could lower crime stats.
Kunkle said that, no, sorry, but a large number of the weapons are obtained "legally." Caraway and Tennell Atkins kept wanting to bring it back to pawn shops, but Kunkle said flea markets and gun shows are where most of the guns are "legally" purchased. He said the pair presented a "higher potential for problems" than pawn shops, which Kunkle said it is a "very regulated industry" that regularly undergoes "detailed record checks."
That out of the way, the committee turned its attention to ... summer break.
Atkins and Caraway both wanted to talk about the perception, at the very least, that juvenile crime stats jump during summer break. "Summertime's coming up," Atkins said: "How can teens be prevented from committing crimes?"
Kunkle and other officers chimed in: Maybe the city could start, oh, midnight basketball leagues and other teen outreaches designed to reach teens and keep them, well, occupied and off the streets. But Caraway stressed the need for new programs.
"The thugs aren't gonna come to midnight basketball," Caraway said. "We need to have a program that addresses them where they are." In fact, Caraway went on an extended sermon railing against the city's "thugs" and the places where they take "hostage." He suggested that perhaps the city needed to "get a little more direct" in its approach to letting them know "we're not going to sit here and let these little thugs give us a black eye."
"They cannot keep holding our rec centers and parks hostage," he said.
The talk of "thugs" and where they tend to hang out made for a perfect segue for Caraway to rail against the "24-hour tobacco shops" he said were popping up "on every corner" in his district. Caraway -- who, you recall, once wanted to crack down on cigar manufacturers -- said, "We know they're selling more than just tobacco products."
"Tell us, give us an agenda, and help us turn it up," he said, rabbit-trailing a bit before telling the DPD officers present, "If we need laws like in New York, tell us. ... If it takes cameras, we're gonna camera-up the city."