Thursday, July 24, 2008

Crime hits small towns hard

One of the great things about living in a small town is that violent crime is not often a daily occurrence. However, when it happens, it hits hard. You either actually know the victim, or know people who know the victim.

On Tuesday night in Honea Path, two apparently black men in white shirts, plaid shorts and covered faces robbed the Stop a Minute convenience store. In the course of their robbing the store, they fired several shots, one striking the Erskine College seminary student who was working the counter in the leg.

Of course, being in a small town, I know the victim's name. I know some of his family. My brother knows the victim, and he and my sister in law live about a quarter of a mile from where the robbery took place. I reside about a mile away, as do my parents, who reside about a block from me. The man who was shot has checked me out of the store when I stopped by there.

It is of great relief to so many in this small town that man clerking at the store Tuesday night was not injured worse and will recover. While I do not mean to discount the pain of violent crimes in larger cities, when it happens in a small town, were it is so easy to know the victim and know people around him, it just sort of hits harder.

In a small town, there are stronger than usual connections. When you are checked out of a store, if you recognize the clerk you ask things like, "how's your brother or daddy doing?" Often, the clerk will return the same type of question. It never crosses your mind that somebody might shoot the clerk one night.

I realize that with the growing presence of drugs, such as crystal meth, gangs, and the ailing economy, that life in small town America is no longer the Mayberry model. However, the cost of violent crime hits home when you know of the victim, know of some of the police folks involved and the some of the first responders. It hits hard and becomes real.

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