Everyone has a stake in both public safety and Beloit’s reputation.

First things first: Congratulations to Beloit’s new chief of police, Andre Sayles. His appointment marks the culmination of a successful rising career in Beloit. He joined the department in 2005, then advanced to sergeant, lieutenant and captain before landing the top job.

We join the entire community in wishing him well.

Unfortunately, the number one challenge facing Sayles is all too obvious. Beloit has experienced a surge in gun violence. Everything is up, from shots-fired incidents to non-fatal shootings to gun-related homicides. It’s not lost on anyone that the only difference between a shots-fired incident and a homicide is poor aim.

The stakes are high, and not just for the immediate victims and their families.

Beloit spent years digging out from under a regional and statewide reputation for crime and violence. The reputation impeded community-wide progress and contributed to difficulties attracting economic development and population growth. Gradually, the reputation improved and Beloit has become a community with a better future. Reversing the increase in violence is the highest priority, both for public safety and for the relationship to community improvement.

While Chief Sayles and his police colleagues have a prominent role, the responsibility extends across the spectrum from parents to schools to churches and neighborhoods.

Police activism, through focusing on community relations, can be helpful in preventing incidents. Reality, though, is that police more often respond to the aftermath of violent crime.

What Chief Sayles and the department need is an involved community working hard to improve the conditions that breed criminality. It’s not a mystery. Traumatic family life. Poverty. Drugs. Educational failure. Hopelessness. These and more create the conditions in which crime thrives.

Everybody has a role and a responsibility to make Beloit inhospitable to crime. Do your part not just by supporting law enforcement, but even more so by demanding accountability within your neighborhood.

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