The other terrorism

By Barbara Simpson

Worried about terrorism? You should be. But don’t think it’s only Islamic terrorists who are a mortal danger to us. There’s another terrorism surrounding us, which we seem to take for granted. That’s a mistake.

Nov. 10, a 15-year-old high-school sophomore was almost hit by neighborhood gunfire. She ran to safety.

The next night, her luck ran out. She was standing in front of her aunt’s house talking to two boys – teen friends of hers. Without warning, at least 20 shots rang out from a passing car. The two boys were wounded. Fifteen-year-old Tamellia Cobbs was left bleeding and died in the hospital.

Family and friends attest to her accomplishments, not the least of which was that she was not involved in gangs or drugs. How she avoided them in her crime-ridden neighborhood is a testament to family and fortitude. But it didn’t help. She’s dead – a victim of street violence that is its own form of terrorism. Police are steeled for retribution.

One night later, at 9 p.m. in the same city – Oakland, Calif. – 24-year-old Kerry Thompson was shot dead on the street. At 2:45 a.m., just five-and-a-half hours later, 33-year-old Alandos Faulkner was killed in a volley of shots.

These three killings in as many days bring the total number of murders in Oakland this year to 99. There are six weeks left in 2002. Last year, the total for the whole year was 87.

A shootout a week before resulted in one dead (number 96) and led police to put a chain link fence around a park known for drug dealing. Of course, it also means children can’t use the park. Residents are prisoners in their homes and aren’t safe on the street. Nearly every killing is drug related. Police Chief Richard Word said, “I wish I had a better way.”

Sounds like terrorism. And surrender.

A measure on the Nov. 5 ballot would have provided money for more street cops. It failed.

Sounds like insanity.

Oakland’s not alone. A real horror occurred in Baltimore in October. Local druggies took over a neighborhood in East Baltimore – an area called the Badlands.

One woman refused to cave in to intimidation. She called 911 every time there was a problem near the home where she lived with her husband and young children. Angela Dawson reportedly made 36 calls over 5 months. The troublemakers got even.

Mrs. Dawson’s home was attacked. A brick through a window, “bitch” spray-painted on the house, even Molotov cocktails.

The worst occurred early in the morning on Oct. 16. Arsonists torched her house and in the inferno, her five children inside died, as did Mrs. Dawson as she tried to help them. Mr. Dawson, who leapt from a window, died from burns a week later. Seven people deliberately killed because they wanted a safe neighborhood.

Mrs. Dawson’s brother, John Harrington Jr., a state correctional officer, was quoted as saying, “This is terrorism in our city.”

He’s got that right.

Horrors like these continue in cities and towns across the country. We get enraged for a while. We grieve for a while. The media harrumph for a while. Even the police lament the waste of life and uncontrolled violence, for a while.

Then we forget.

No better example is the “no” vote of the city of Oakland on Election Day. I haven’t seen how Baltimore or Oakland will deal with this terrorism. Baltimore is the 4th most violent city in the country … Oakland was once “Murdertown, USA.”

And?

Some blame it on a “failed drug war.” Maybe. But how well is it being fought when drugs cross the border with impunity and 6th-grade kids can get whatever kind of magic pill or powder they want?

There’s no real war on drugs, but it sounds and looks good. The half-hearted attempt, the resultant crime and costs to society provide fuel for the drug-legalization crowd.

As if making it easier to get drugs will make their insidious destruction go away. Ask any cop. Ask any family devastated by drugs. Find out how much it costs your city to deal with users when they bottom out and destroy families and friends.

God help us, if we fight the war against Islamic terrorism – think 9-11 – the way we’re fighting this. If we do, we might as well turn in our Bible for the Koran now.

The feds are obsessed with homeland security, and they should be. We all should be. If there’s any doubt, remember 9-11.