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Headlines running across the pages of the newspaper haven't been all that blissful the past several months, with weekly reports of methamphetamine labs busted by police. And just last week we reported on the arrests of four people, two adults and two juveniles, on criminal-gang activity.
Scattered amid that news have been stories about the impact of proposed local-government reform and its possible impact on tax rates, frequent home foreclosures and sheriff's sales, proposed utility-rate increases and efforts last year by Tell City to annex outlying areas.
"Who would want to live in Perry County or move here?" one woman asked me during a telephone conversation Thursday. She blamed the newspaper in general, and me in particular, for giving the county a bad name. I don't know who the lady was. Some callers don't give me their names and as long as they are polite - this lady was - I usually don't demand to know their identities.
All communities have their problems and Perry County is no exception, I told the caller repeatedly, suggesting it was far better for residents and their leaders to deal with the issues of drugs, possible gangs and economic hard times than pretending they didn't exist. She wasn't convinced. Other areas don't broadcast their dirty laundry, she alleged, but I'm sure hiding our problems won't make them magically go away.
The first step in dealing with issues is acknowledging they exist, whether it's people hooked on drugs or teens and young adults forming some gang and allegedly getting into fights. Sure, we could bury the news of dismantled drug labs in the back pages of the paper or simply keep them to the arrests section. But how would that help? Don't you want to know where drugs and drug labs are found?
I caught more flack last week for running the arrests of the two young men on gang activity. One caller said the police were overzealous in dealing with a group of young people who aren't a gang, but only some loose assembly of men who hang together as friends.
The law has clear definitions of what constitutes a gang and gang activity. In Indiana, a gang is a group of at least five members that either promotes, sponsors, assists in or participates in the commission of a felony or an act that would be a felon if committed by an adult, or the offense of battery.
A person who knowingly or or intentionally actively participates in a criminal gang commits criminal-gang activity, a Class D felony.
If there are young people who want to consider themselves a gang and break the law, the police are going to be on their case. Would we want anything else? No one of any age should feel threatened when out in public, either in a public pool parking lot where teens gather or walking down the street.
Despite the headlines you've seen - and will likely continue to see - Perry County remains a wonderful community. It has its problems. But instead of turning a blind eye in hopes things will get better by themselves, we need to face our woes head-on, right now. Doing so helps ensure brighter futures for us all.