Unanswered Questions

Santa Barbara is, on the whole, a safe city, so when a fatal knifing takes place it is big news. A 15-year-old boy, Luis Angel Linares, was stabbed to death Wednesday afternoon, March 14. Our hearts go out to his family. The suspect is a 14-year-old junior high school boy, now in police custody and being charged as an adult for the murder. The event occurred early in the afternoon after a half-day school session.

Public opinion traveled quickly via online forums and blogs. Conversations sparked up immediately after the first few stories were posted online. Unfortunately for Santa Barbara residents, most of the opinions posted on various blogs blamed “society” for the death. Very few people put responsibility in the hands of the suspect.

Which leads one to wonder, have these bloggers lost all sense of what personal responsibility means? It was an individual act, although committed in a mob – or gang – environment. Some one is responsible.

Another common response among those posting online opinions was to insist upon increased police presence in Santa Barbara. It is hard to believe Santa Barbara doesn’t have enough police presence already. More importantly, is that the kind of city they want to live in?

Another suggestion was to increase school security. Short of adding metal detectors to local schools (junior high?), why would increasing security or police presence prevent this type of crime? Is this the kind of school you would want to send your children?

To blame immigration, social or financial inequality, or any other issue for Luis’s death is both shortsighted and irresponsible. To suggest that an individual has no self-control because of a medical ailment, socio-economic background, or family hardship does a disservice to our youth; it simply gives them reasons/excuses for misbehavior.

The school system’s response so far has been to remove upcoming half-days to prevent students from wandering around during the middle of the day. Are they supposing a tragedy like this could not, would not, happen after school or on a Saturday? Is there something special about early afternoon on a school day that encourages gang activity?

Knives Don’t Commit Crimes; People Do

If the murder weapon were a gun, the usual suspects would be writing to local politicians demanding more gun control, claiming that if guns weren’t available, this crime would not have happened. As any jailer knows, virtually anything can be made into a weapon. By blaming the weapon instead of the individual responsible for using the weapon, society reinforces the idea that individuals are not responsible for their actions.

It is hard not to feel sympathy for the 14-year-old murder suspect. Indeed, it is a tragedy for everyone involved. If convicted of the most serious charge, his life could potentially be taken from him. But we cannot forget that Luis Linares’s life was taken from him. If convicted, should society extend sympathy to the murderer? Maybe, but societal trends have made it increasingly difficult to blame an individual for his actions, so let’s not be too lenient.

The correct response to what happened should be to prosecute the person responsible and, once convicted, take into account whatever mitigating circumstances there may have been. No new legislation is needed or called for. As for crime prevention, citizens should rely on one another to report and monitor devious activity, work with local authorities, and help create change on an individual level.

That’s what a community of responsible citizens would do. To clamor for more legislation, more security, more law-enforcement presence would instead be another step in the creation of what could eventually become a police state.

Honoring Siegel

On a lighter note, community activist and Montecito resident Barry Siegel will be the guest of honor at a benefit reception on Saturday, March 24 hosted by the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST). The event will be held at Larry Iwerks’s gallery, 958 Weldon Road, from 4 pm to 7 pm. We encourage you to attend.