The Aurora City Council finance committee debates tonight whether to award its police officers $500 bonuses.
Whether the city can afford the additional $144,500 is debatable. But whether the city's men and women in blue deserve it is not.
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The bonus, proposed by Mayor Tom Weisner for all 289 sworn officers, would recognize the fact that Aurora had zero murders in 2012, for the first time since 1946 when the city had a population of 48,000. Now with just under 200,000 residents, Aurora is the state's second most populated city. These officers deserve all the kudos they get.
"Year after year, day after day, Aurora police officers have put themselves on the line to snuff out violent crime in our community," Weisner said. "No homicides for 2012 is a symbol of their overall success."
Compare Aurora's success to Chicago: Just a mere 42 miles away, the city reported 506 homicides in 2012, a 12 percent increase over 2011.
Aurora's murder-free year, meanwhile, continues a decline over the last 10 years, as reported by Daily Herald staff writer Marie Wilson. In 2002, Aurora had 25 murders.
How'd they do it? Through community policing and better coordination with state and federal police agencies are two ways.
But getting community groups -- nonprofits, social service agencies, schools and faith-based organizations -- involved in the fight against gangs also has been key.
That's what major cities like Chicago and Detroit, which had the highest murder rate in 2012 among the nation's most populous cities, according to the Detroit News, are attempting to do as well.
"It's not a situation myself ... or the (police) chief can fix by ourselves," Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said in an article in the Huffington Post. "We've got to reach out to the entire community."
In Aurora, that meant forming groups like Boys 2 Men, a fraternal organization for high school boys that aims to help them overcome stereotypes and break barriers. Other groups like the Navy Junior Reserve Office Training Corps at East Aurora High School and the My Time tutoring program by Aurora University also help, said Police Chief Greg Thomas. He said the work isn't done.
"We're going to plan for continued vigilance on gang membership," Thomas said.
Added Weisner: "What we're trying to do as we reduce crime is create more and more opportunities for success for our young people."
Everyone involved in the success in Aurora should be applauded. If other communities are looking for ideas to battle gangs and keep this kind of crime at low levels, they should reach out immediately to Aurora.