Something has been on my heart and on everyone’s mind these days — the increase of crime in our community.

I have met with various groups of citizens and this subject has been raised in virtually every meeting. I particularly appreciate the concerns and comments of African American ministers in meetings organized by Mayor Pro Tem Robert Shankle.

But this is not a problem unique to any racial group or neighborhood.

In fact, it is not unique to Lufkin. It is happening all over America, and in some places the escalation is frightening.

In reality, due primarily to a fine police department with a solid reputation in the community, Lufkin is doing better than many communities in America.

But it is true that we have had an increase in violent and lesser crimes lately in our community — and it is unsettling, to say the least.

I am no expert on crime in America but I am not in the dark on the subject either. I am regularly briefed on the problem and the steps the city is taking to combat it.

Some of those steps are better left unpublicized, but we have publicly disclosed some of the actions being undertaken by the Lufkin Police Department, including increased police activity in key areas of the city.

City administration is listening to the community, constantly reviewing what may be done, and the police department is actively taking all measures possible.

Having said that, please bear with me and consider the possibility that the real problems behind the recent spike in crime may be something other than what you commonly hear in the media.

There’s simply no solid proof that it’s poverty, the lack of jobs, the absence of enough things for our young people to do, racism or police brutality.

It’s possible for some of those things to make our crime problem worse. But, where they exist, they are not the actual cause of the escalating crime all over America.

The current rise in crime everywhere is very likely due to efforts to defund the police and the trend toward making crimes society’s fault rather than the fault of criminals.

As a result, people previously deterred by police forces and the threat of punishment break the law in increasing numbers these days because they know there is a good chance of gaining from it and not getting punished.

The short-sighted efforts to defund the police and blame society rather than criminals is prevalent everywhere in the media. These things have been the hottest topics in America for 18 months — rivaled only by reporting on COVID-19.

Lufkin may be better than most places in America, but we are not immune to the constant barrage against law enforcement and blaming crime on everything but the criminals.

I know it’s popular to politicize everything these days but I am not making a political statement. I am stating the obvious.

Enforcing the law, just like peacekeeping, depends on effective deterrence.

Deterrence is the ability to dissuade someone from stealing our property, hurting us or blowing up our country without resorting to violence.

It’s not rocket science. A solid police department supported by the community and the threat of swift punishment deters bad people from committing crimes.

When people call for defunding police forces and constantly blame criminal activity on society, people inclined to crime are emboldened and their contempt for authority grows.

The collapse of deterrence may start in Minneapolis, Portland or Seattle but it eventually makes its way to Lufkin.

And we are left wondering why crime has recently increased in our own town.

What can we do?

We can’t control national politics or make the national news media calm down. We can only do our part.

We can be honest about the underlying reasons creating our problem.

We can support our excellent police department.

We can take personal measures to make our homes and communities safer.

We can encourage a rebirth of morality among our young people and everyone in our community.

For this, we must look to families and our local religious leaders. Governments and police forces can do their part but they can’t change hearts.

We can pull together and be Lufkin — and we can refuse to become Minneapolis, Portland or Austin.

I love this town. I know what its people are made of.

We will get through COVID and we’ll get through the craziness that’s going on in America right now.

But we must acknowledge the truth about the source of our problem. It’s the first step on the road back to common sense.

Mark Hicks is the mayor for the city of Lufkin. His email address is mhicks@cityoflufkin.com.