Every community in America has its problems with crime. Every urban community has its problems with violent crime.
But what happened in Warren last weekend elevates the problem to a higher plane.
It's partly due to the location - a busy street near businesses, churches, schools and homes. It's partly because of the time - 10:30 in the morning. It's partly because of how it unfolded - at least 47 bullets sprayed from assault weapons as those involved in the gun battle scurried into the street and ran down an alley. Nearby, a church went into lockdown mode to protect its worshippers. A startled driver with her daughter drove a wounded man to Trumbull Memorial Hospital. His blood soaked her back seat.
It was like a movie, a movie some parents would consider too violent for their children to watch.
In Warren, it was real.
On any other day, traffic volume there is significant. Less than 24 hours earlier hundreds gathered within bullet range to view a Veterans Day parade. This town was that close to exposing hordes of innocent bystanders to a hail of gunfire.
Over the years people in towns such as Warren grew detached from violence that is contained to certain low-income, mostly minority neighborhoods. On Sunday, Warren lost that containment. The players are drug-dealing thugs, some from Warren and some from Detroit, at war with each other. Their way of playing has now crept too dangerously close to law-abiders.
This afternoon, in the Sunrise Inn banquet room on East Market Street, residents, business owners, politicians and concerned citizens have a chance to start doing something about that. We're not sure what it is, but it has to be big. Hopefully, those attending Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership's public meeting at 3 p.m. to discuss crime and safety in Warren feel the same way.
We do know what doesn't work.
A police chief using about six months of accumulated time off before he retires in seven months doesn't work. A City Council president posing for media cameras more than leading his legislators toward important anti-crime decisions doesn't work. A city safety director working quietly, some would say silently, behind the scenes doesn't work. A mayor attending too many hand-shaking events rather than using a bullhorn to outline a crime fighting agenda doesn't work. All of these people should have, since Sunday morning, been louder and more visible than the presidential candidates were at the beginning of the month.
A business community pointing fingers at everybody above doesn't work. Complacency by residents doesn't work either.
The consequences of failure are almost unmentionable. We're talking about outsiders too frightened to visit Warren. People too scared to reside in Warren. Developers too rattled to locate in Warren.
BP brought hundreds of jobs to the Chase Tower in downtown this year. It is looking for its own building. Undoubtedly, safe passage to and from the workplace for its employees will be of paramount concern.
The Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center made a landmark announcement on Thursday. Its ability to draw inventors, researchers and scientists to downtown will certainly rest, in part, on safety.
What happened Sunday is traumatic for the city. How it catalyzes on the incident could be equally fulfilling. Success should start today in a Sunrise Inn banquet room.