Our Opinion: Community's key role in pursuit of justice

The Pittsfield Police Department Friday night put out a Facebook post seeking help in finding the killer of 22-year-old Asiyanna Jones that in its eloquence gets to the heart of a neighborhood's and a community's responsibility to seek justice and make their streets a safer place. If that responsibility isn't met, there are limits to what authorities can accomplish.

Residents reported hearing gun shots at about 10:45 last Monday evening, just before Ms. Jones was found in a vehicle on Dewey Avenue. Two days later, the state medical examiner ruled her death a homicide, concluding that she was shot in the head. On Friday came the post from police, which said that the department had been "working all hours of the night" to find the killer (Eagle, October 8).

Reportedly there were several people at the scene of the killing and the post from police asked witnesses to come forward. That none have come forward could be attributed to a variety of reasons. Anyone complicit in the killing is unlikely to acknowledge their guilt. There is the fear of retribution. The murder of David Glasser for testifying against Adam Lee Hall six years ago, one of three murders that Mr. Hall and two others were convicted of committing, shows that this fear can be legitimate. There is distrust of the police department, although Pittsfield police have in recent years raised their profile in high-crime neighborhoods to build trust with residents. Then there is the code of silence that has hindered the efforts of so many cities to get criminals off the streets.

"This is not about 'snitching,' 'ratting' or telling on someone," read the police department post. "This is not about your pride or your fear. It's about justice. This is about doing what's right, period." Doing what's right is not always easy, but it is essential in not only confronting a terrible individual crime like this one but in ridding communities of a criminal element.

Crime-plagued areas also struggle economically, and those two elements fuel a vicious circle leading to more crime and more losses of business. It isn't fair that crime can fuel the perception of Pittsfield is a crime-plagued city, but unfortunately, perception is often reality.

Neighborhoods in Pittsfield have set up crime watches to protect themselves, and the police department and City Hall are actively confronting both the perception and the reality of crime in the city. For law authorities and elected officials to succeed, however, residents who are aware of the specifics of a crime must overcome their fears, their inclination to stay on the sidelines, their misconceptions about what it means to go to the police, and do what is right so justice can be done.

Anyone with information about the death of Aslyanna Jones is asked to contact lead investigator Detective Matos at 448-9700, extension 390.


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