Mayor Bart Peterson on Tuesday announced a plan to spend an extra $10.5 million to fight crime and end the early release of inmates from the county jail but raised the possibility of new taxes as Indianapolis searches for a long-term fix to pay for crime-fighting.

Apparently there is a new hero in the war against crime: Tax-Man. As of this blog, we’ve just suffered our 103rd homicide of the year. Our government’s solution? Finding new ways to spend money we don’t have and throw away the key on folks.

On the surface, more police sounds like an easy answer; that’s because better trained, better funded, and more police officers are always good. However, police respond once crimes have been committed. Unless you have a cop on every corner, 24/7, they aren’t going to be much by way of deterrence. We can’t just shrug our shoulders and leave the solution strictly in the hands of the police – people we already ask a lot from in one breath and casually disrespect in the other.

Warehousing criminals, again, sounds good but isn’t a real solution. That’s society saying that we’ve given up so when you go bad, we’ll just lock you up. Yep, statistically crime will drop. Yep, we will “feel” safer knowing that we’ve thrown away the key. However, this country already has too long a sad history of putting people in chains and we can’t afford any more of those long-term scars on our collective soul.

There is something … broken in our culture. A love of violence. A seething anger that bubbles just beneath the surface. You know what? We’re not going to solve the violence/crime problem with a blog or by throwing money at it in ill-conceived/reactionary ways. It’s too big a problem. That’s the reality that panics our politicians: it’s too big a problem with no easy solution so let’s at least look like we’re doing something.

Maybe we–the people, the community–need to do more to stem the tide of violence where we can. Bear our share of the burden. I’m reminded of the two most important laws, echoing the law experts of Jesus’ day, are to love God and to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Yet we continue to fail to be good neighbors – we keep looking for loopholes of “who is my neighbor?” So how can we be better neighbors?

I learned a lot in my old neighborhood that I took for granted. We could call it the Big Momma lesson. We’ve lost the community spirit of sitting out on our porches. It seems like we seemed determined to keep moving away from each other (in the name of “escaping the crime” and “those people”); and if we can’t move, we build fences from one another. Cordoning off our corner of Creation, the repository of our stuff. Maybe we ought to answer our own question of “who is my neighbor” by sitting out and getting to know them. Learn the comings and goings of our neighborhood and maybe keep an eye out for each other.

If we are serious about being good neighbors, if the government is determined to throw around money, it could help by adding more and fixing existing broken street lights. Experience has taught us that darkness hides many sins. Less crimes are committed in the light because criminals don’t want to be seen. [The government could also add more sidewalks. They might not help stem crime, but my neighborhood could sure use some.]

We need to take ownership of our neighborhoods, even in the tiniest of ways. About a decade ago, there was a book entitled Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities by George L. Kelling and Catherine Coles. The premise basically says “consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside … or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.” Caring about our neighborhoods means caring holistically. Not just keeping a vigilant eye, but having a proactive mindset – one that fixes problems as we see them.

I suppose that there are some economic problems for Tax-Man to solve. Moving people into jobs and out of the streets and the lifestyle of survival. Disincentivizing the drug lifestyle. Get the illegal guns off the streets. However, but a lot of our crime problem may boil down to simply becoming concerned citizens. Concerned neighbors. We have to have an attitude of fixing problems while they are small, cause by the time problems are at the homicide level, you can throw all the money you want at the problem, it’s too late. Now you’re just there to clean up the mess. If we are truly to be lights in a world of darkness, the least we can do is start by fixing a broken window and be a good neighbor. We can’t make people care, unless you want to give tax breaks for caring citizens.