What Makes Ronnie Roll: A Safe City

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Mayor Ronnie came in with a sun-and-wind-burned face from sitting in the stands for his grandson Quinton’s championship game, and in spite of it he was in good spirits. Emmett Moore had been hired by the family resource center as its new executive director, and more will be coming about him soon. The LSU women’s basketball team was looking good to take the title, and they ended up doing a record-breaking job of it. Major retail projects are still being developed, and of course, spring is finally here in all its beauty. Quality of life is almost always a joyful part of our discussions and celebrations of how wonderful it is to live in Athens, Alabama. However, it was not long before Mayor Ronnie said, “Quality of life means nothing if we don’t have public safety.”

We talked about the now well-known fact that Limestone County is the fastest growing county in the state of Alabama, and one of the fastest growing in the nation. “Growth is wonderful, and it is also so challenging,” he said, and added, “How do we make a safe city and keep the quality of life high?”

On the south wall of the mayor’s office is a bookcase packed with works from various authors, many of which Mayor Ronnie has had the chance to meet at conferences where mayors and civic leaders gather together to grapple with the issues that keep them from being, as Ronald Reagan said, “ that shining city on a hill.”  One such work is entitled, Safe City and is written by Robert Hessel. Its subtitle is, From Law Enforcement to Neighborhood Watches.

The book talks about the need for neighborhood watches, and talks about the potential use of technology to teach communities “…how to harden targets and protect your home, your business, your community, yourself and your loved ones. It takes a community to help reduce and prevent crime.”

Hessel’s premise is that we need to blend the good old-fashioned concept of, “If you see something say something” that was popularized by the ad campaign starting in 1980 featuring McGruff the Crime Dog. McGruff was and is a hound dog in a rumpled Columbo-like trench coat who growls and says, “Take a bite out of crime.” Forty years later, McGruff is alive and well, and according to Wikipedia, “the Ad Council and the National Crime Prevention Council still use McGruff in national campaigns to raise awareness about crime and crime prevention strategies.”

While no one disputes the need to increase the level of safety and lower the rate of crime in Athens, and one of the challenges that arises is defining the legitimate role of technology in doing so. How do we defeat crime as well as protect our Constitutionally-guaranteed right to privacy?

The mayor chose to concentrate on the human element. He said, “Everyone has to work together, and we have to be alert. Things can happen so fast, and it doesn’t take much for us to go backwards,” he said. And then he asked and answered, “What does our community stand for? Love for everyone.” So, that is what we prayed for, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner