It is described by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports as "the willful killing of another human being." Those words, always accompanied by seemingly endless columns of statistics, don't begin to tell the story.
It is human lives cut short in the most senseless and brutal way imaginable.
It is families left to deal with emotional and financial devastation and, in many cases, unanswered questions about the loss of their loved one.
It is a blight on the public image of a community since many people base their impression of a city on their perception of its safety.
It is a financial burden to the community that must pay a price which includes investigation of the crime, incarceration of the offender, and, in a majority of cases, public assistance to the family of the victim.
It is the outcome of hundreds of violent conflicts-some of which result in the death of one or more participants.
Even more disheartening, it is a symptom of so much more:
A culture that glorifies violence and revenge
A culture with disproportionate numbers of African American victims and perpetrators, signifying the loss of young African American males to morgues or prison cells
A culture in which many young men equate violence with manhood and credibility on the street
A culture in which young people caught in a cycle of violence, poverty, poor education and low self esteem become easy prey to criminal activity
A culture in which young people display their mug shots to one another as badges of honor
A culture in which parents emancipate children with limited life skills at early ages
A culture in which drugs and alcohol far too often triumph over reason
A culture in which the availability of guns makes them the problem solving option of choice
A culture in which far too many young people lack the role models and guidance to help them make appropriate life choices
A culture in which the mental health needs of troubled young people go undiagnosed and untreated
A culture in which death row inmates tell counselors that "no one ever cared about me," a chilling indictment of our society
A culture in which the problems associated with violence are far greater than the resources or the will to combat them
It's a major problem in our society and in our own community. But whose problem is it? Who owns the culture of violence that too often results in homicide?
Does it belong to police and the courts which bear the most visible responsibility to build a safe community?
Does it belong to government which must meet myriad needs with finite resources?
Does it belong to parents who must give their children the values and opportunities to resist violence and become responsible citizens?
Does it belong to the schools which, in today's society, are required to teach young people far more than the three R's?
Does it belong to the social services network and mental health network which often is the only buffer against hopelessness and the descent into violence?
Does it belong to our congregations and houses of faith which must view Charlotte as the new mission field they are called to transform?
Does it belong to the business community which is dependant upon a safe city with a positive image for its financial stability?
Does it belong to the media which often publicizes and glorifies violence at the expense of stories which illuminate the good in a community?
Or, does it belong to every person who has an opportunity and capacity to change a life for the better?
The answer to all of the above questions is EVERYONE. Homicide is a problem that belongs to every member of our community.
We all must own the homicide issue. We all must be outraged. We all must be catalysts for change.