If closing your eyes and wishing it away were effective, Robeson County wouldn’t have a crime problem, as that tactic has surely been tried by all of us. But we have more than our share of crime — and the reputation that comes with it.
Crime can be a deal-breaker when new industry and professional people consider this county as a potential home. Sometimes our temperate climate, available land, eager work force, major east-west and north-south highways, abundance of water, Southeastern Regional Medical Center, Robeson Community College, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Veterans Affairs clinic, regional airport, Lumber River State Park, recreational opportunities — and friendly people — outweigh the worries about crime. And, sadly, sometimes they fall short.
Crime is the wart on the tip of the nose and not easily disguised. Anyone with a third-grader’s grasp of the Internet can quickly discover that, according to a report by the State Bureau of Investigation and the Attorney General’s Office, Robeson County during 2010 ranked No. 1 in the state in violent crime and No. 3 in property crime.
There are legitimate explanations for crime in this county — our pervasive and generational poverty, high unemployment and low education levels being at the top of the list. But they aren’t persuasive to industries and professional people with options.
Which delivers us to today’s point: A new crime tracking system, MapNimbus, that will be offered by the Sheriff’s Office should be embraced, not dreaded, by chambers of commerce and industrial recruiters that tend to bristle at any mention of crime.
The tracking system can be used to identify “hot spots,” providing information on the types and frequency of crimes and where convicted sex offenders live. It will provide evidence that crime in this county is huddled and can be dodged to the degree that is possible — here or anywhere else. MapNimbus will launch soon with information only on crimes reported to the Sheriff’s Office, but plans are to include local police reports eventually.
The mapping system cost just $1,450 for a one-year trial, money that came from $6.5 million grant the Juvenile Violence Prevention Center received from the Center for Academic Excellence at The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to study juvenile crime in this county. The system is being used primarily as a diagnostic tool, but, as we have suggested, it works as well a prophylactic.
If an area the size of Robeson County — the state’s largest county — is laid on top of any city in North Carolina, it will drag in pockets that aren’t desirable destinations for industries or professionals looking for a new home. MapNimbus will make that point visually, and should be marched out, and not tucked away, when opportunity knocks on our door.
Knowledge, in this instance, truly is power.