Just 22 days into the new year and we've already recorded four homicides in Newton County - what a staggering statistic.
To put it in perspective of recent years: in 2004 there were two homicides in Newton County. A year later, there was a drop to only a single homicide. In 2006, the homicide number rose to four and in 2007 nine homicides were recorded.
At our current rate (if it were to continue) of four homicides every 22 days we are looking at an annual total of around 63 murders by the end of 2008, which would put Newton County ahead of every United States community on a per capita basis in the homicide category.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2006, Detroit, which led the nation in murders, had 47 murders per 100,000 residents.
Obviously in a community like Newton County we will never see this rash of murders continue, but to what can we attribute this latest string of homicides? Why all of a sudden is there such a lack of respect for another human's life in our community? Does the current economic climate have anything to do with the incidents? Are we growing beyond what our law enforcement infrastructure can handle? Is it simply timing?
Maybe the answer lies in all three factors or possibly too many factors to name.
The senseless act of taking another's life, however, can and never should be explained away.
This trend is disturbing. As a journalist, I'm always looking for answers to questions - as a community we should all be looking for solutions to these grave injustices.
I open it up to the community as a request and a challenge to search for the answers. What is causing this sudden onslaught of violence in Newton County and what can we do about it?
We want our community to be known for our scenic landmarks, family atmosphere and rich history. We want people to visit Newton County to get away from the worries of big city life.
We don't want to become known as the county with the highest murder rate in the country, which is the trend we're on right now for 2008. We don't want folks outside the county to stay away because we've garnered a reputation for violence.
We need to come together as a community now to address the problem and begin searching for answers and solutions before it is too late.
Robby Byrd is the editor of The Covington News. He can be reached at rbyrd@covnews.