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Published August 07 2009

Forum editorial: As crime waves go, not much

As “crime waves” go, the recent spate of car thefts, robberies and break-ins in the Fargo area is a ripple. Sure, it’s always serious when criminals do their thing. But Fargo is still at the point where a convenience store heist is big news; where a couple of car thefts generate headlines; where bank robberies are so infrequent that a single bank job is a big story.

Every crime is bad news, especially to the victims of crime. So no crime, however minor in the pantheon of crime, should be minimized. But let’s not adopt a hunker-down mentality because of the news of the past couple of weeks.

Fargo-Moorhead enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the nation for metropolitan areas of similar size. Recent reports suggest a crime cluster that in some instances was the work of one or two persons. It’s not necessarily an indication of an uptick in the overall crime rate.

Nonetheless, perceptions are important. Public safety is paramount to public well-being. If residents of the city feel unsafe – even if facts confirm they are safe – policymakers and law enforcement have a problem. If nothing is done to address the problem, false perceptions of safety can change a city’s character for the worse.

That is not happening in Fargo, Moorhead or West Fargo. Generally, residents understand that neighborhoods are relatively safe because of good police work and vigilant residents.

While one break-in or car theft can rattle the neighborhood where it takes place, no neighborhood can be honestly characterized as a hotbed of crime.

That being said, caution is smart. In a city populated in large part by people who came from small towns, the tendency to trust can lead to unlocked houses and vehicles. But it takes only one burglar or one vandal or one thief to destroy a neighborhood’s sense of security. It takes only one unlocked door or car keys left in the vehicle to make it easy for a would-be thief.

Don’t make it easy. Lock doors and cars. Don’t leave garage doors wide open as an invitation for the bad guys to waltz in and rip off your stuff. Don’t leave valuable possessions out in the yard where a thief can easily scoop them up.

Meanwhile, residents can take some satisfaction in the arrest this week of three individuals – one in connection with the armed robbery of a credit union in West Fargo, two others in connection with several burglaries at convenience stores in Fargo. That’s excellent work by law enforcement officers.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.