Taking a closer look at homicide numbers

Published 4:56 pm Friday, January 4, 2019

There were five homicides within the City of LaGrange in 2018, a total matched only once in the last 20 years. We wrote extensively about those numbers in Friday’s paper, breaking down each individual case and the factors surrounding them.

A couple of conclusions can quickly be drawn when digging into the numbers.

First, five is a high number for LaGrange, at least when compared to the last two decades. While this is true, it is also fair to be concerned. Five is a large increase over the single homicide that took place in 2017, but 2017 was also below average for LaGrange overall.

Each case is different, and it’s important to consider this when looking at 2018’s numbers.

One of the city’s five homicide victims was allegedly a man who traveled from Mississippi to commit an armed robbery and was shot by his own friends in the crossfire.

Another was a domestic violence incident, which are unfortunately very difficult to prevent. There’s not much the LaGrange Police Department — or anyone — can do to stop either of those crimes before they happen.

The other three homicides are more alarming, including the most recent in which an 18-year-old was killed two days before Christmas. It appears at least one of these remaining three homicides, if not more, were gang related in some way. This is an area the LPD has placed a heavy focus within the last five years or so.

In three of these incidents, no one has been arrested. On Lady Elaine Street in January 2018, Antonio M. Harris was shot and killed after multiple shots were fired into the residence where he was located. On Houston Street in July, John Westley Davis was killed when the car he was riding in was shot at.

The LPD is also looking for the person who shot and killed Niko Hurston, a teenager, on Troup Street in December. Dontavious Sawaye Morgan has been identified as a person of interest in that case.

That’s where the LPD could use some help from the community. Someone out there knows what happened in these incidents, but no one has come forward with the information required to result in an arrest of the person or persons responsible.

While it’s the LaGrange Police Department’s job to make an arrest, it’s nearly impossible for the officers to do that without help from the community. The families deserve closure in all these cases and individuals within the community have the ability to help bring this closure about.

We can all agree that even one homicide is too many, however it remains a lofty goal to get that number to zero, one that every city tries to hit every year.

We’re sure city leaders and the LPD will study these numbers and look at ways to lower the homicide rate and the rate of all crime this upcoming year, whether that’s through crime prevention, community policing or other factors.  Unfortunately, no one can wave a magic wand and oust all violent crimes, and there’s no other obvious fix either, at least from our perspective.

However, the fact still remains that five people were murdered in LaGrange in 2018, a number that all of us, including law enforcement, can agree is too high. Now is the time to evaluate the factors to ensure it doesn’t become a trend.