Problems of vandalism and terrorism, like those plaguing the unincorporated area of White City for nearly two years, are not incurable social ills. They can and must be stopped to prevent beleaguered citizens from taking the law in their own hands.

Residents have complained of slashed tires, loud parties, loitering, thefts, assaults, verbal abuses, foul gestures, and other harassment they blame on juveniles. Furthermore, many residents believe that much of the problem revolves around drug trafficking in the area.Some residents, understandably frustrated that such a problem has persisted so long, have threatened vigilante action. Others offered firm, but law-abiding approaches, such as creating a well-organized Neighborhood Watch program.

It should be obvious that taking the law into one's own hands is not only the incorrect, but also an illegal way to deal with the problem. There is a vast difference in being vigilant and being a vigilante.

There was an ugly example of people taking the law into their own hands in New York City this week. An angry mob answered pleas from a woman who said $20 had been snatched from her purse and the suspected thief was beaten to death.

White City residents are concerned about identifying culprits because of potential retaliation at their homes or schools. But as Lt. David Glad of the Salt Lake County sheriff's office has pointed out, people can make confidential or anonymous reports without fear that their names will be used.

Without a complaint, an officer can only make an arrest if a person is caught in the act of breaking the law. And this is precisely where a well-organized Neighborhood Watch program can be extremely effective.

People become, in the real sense, their brother's keeper as they watch for and report crimes or suspicious activities against people or property. Police at that point can swing into action and catch those breaking the law.

Neighborhood Watch programs across the country have proven themselves time and again as effective crime deterrents. Participants are, in effect, many sets of extra eyes for already overworked police departments.

Already, as one resident pointed out, tension is somewhat quieted in the White City neighborhood because law enforcement patrols have been increased. Think of what could result if all residents were on "patrol" looking out for suspicious activity and promptly reporting it.

As Granite Community Council member Norm Sims has wisely observed, it is the responsibility of the residents to help solve the problems. "Your community is going to be what you want your community to be."