Leaders must step forward to stop crime

The city of Tybee Island is warning that it is mulling over the idea of paying $29,000 for a camera system on Lazaretto Creek Bridge that will record the license tags of all vehicles coming onto the island. Officials will be particularly on the lookout for stolen vehicles or cars registered to people wanted by the law for any offense, felony or misdemeanor.

Tybee would use the videos to suggest to wanted criminals that they steer clear of their island and beaches, or risk getting caught and ending up in jail.

Clever way to try to convince those dodging arrest warrants to stay off Tybee Island. How nice it would be if every community had but one access point and could do the same.

But what would be the point? Career criminals are not afraid of the law and, to be truthful, have good reason not to be. Many of them have been in and out of the hands of police and the courts more times than most can count.

And it is likely to get worse before it gets better. State legislators and the state's leadership are already actively searching for more ways to reduce sentencing, to limit the jail time of criminals. It appears elected officials care more about a dollar than they do public safety or society's peace of mind.

Former Brunswick Police Chief Jimmy Carter and former Charleston, S.C., Police Chief Reuben Greenberg used to say that a very small part of the population is responsible for most crimes that occur. If they could keep them in jail, they'd say, crime would drop by 95 percent or more.

Police do their jobs, as frustrating as it can sometimes be. And district attorneys do what they can to put criminals behind bars. Judges sentence those who are found guilty.

As it happens, someone springs them far earlier than they should be and returns them to the streets, where they claim more victims.

Tybee Island can install all the cameras it wants, but until someone in leadership steps forward and does something to ensure career criminals get their just rewards, the threat will be mostly hollow.