Utah is the nation’s fastest-growing state. But that is no excuse for a spike in the number of homicides in 2016.
As a meticulous Deseret News report showed on New Year’s Day, at least 90 people died as a result of homicide in Utah last year. The number may change as investigators discover that some deaths were homicides but were classified otherwise, or if victims of assaults die. In any event, it is far too high, and it is a disturbing leap from the 73 homicide deaths the previous year.
Of course, the only acceptable number of murders is zero. But it is too easy for people to ignore or overlook the deaths of people they never knew. In truth, each incident is unique and of intense and agonizing concern to those involved, as well as to their immediate and extended families. Each is a tragedy that spreads sorrow far beyond a single act, and each is an assault on the well-being of all Utahns.
We urge readers to reflect on the lives lost as a consequence of senseless violence.
Murder is the ultimate offense against civility, but in many cases it is the culmination of a gradually darkening scale of incivility that begins with callous disrespect and disregard. Individual Utahns may not have the power to stop killings, but they can resolve to avoid violence and uncivil behavior in their own lives, whether online or in person. They can resolve to quell feelings of rage behind the wheel. At least two murders last year were the result of road rage.
Of particular concern were the numbers of murders associated with domestic violence, accounting for more than 25 percent of the total. Often, such killings are the final act of an intensifying series of assaults of which others are aware. Neighbors, friends and relatives who observe signs of an abusive relationship have a responsibility to intervene and seek help from authorities. Too often, however, such things are left alone or dismissed as private matters.
Many of last year’s victims knew their attackers. Many were killed over matters involving illegal drugs. Nine were shot by police officers. Three officers were killed in the line of duty, giving the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of public peace. One of these died after a car containing three juveniles swerved to hit him, adding immeasurably to the sorrow of families involved.
It is also important to keep these statistics in perspective. Ninety murders in a state of more than 3 million does not make Utah a dangerous place to live. Neighborhoods are filled with people who care about each other and are eager to lend a hand to those in need. Utah remains a leader in terms of volunteerism and community involvement.
Yet the state cannot afford to continue to see the numbers of murders increase so dramatically. Stemming that tide will require the efforts of all.