A new year has started and with the new year I have a goal of spreading as much positivity as I can. Many of us in Lawton are working to combat the negative reviews and comments about our community by sharing positive stories, I intend to make this a focus of 2020.

For the past several months, my family and I have been living with an extremely challenging situation, I should really say our neighborhood has been living with an extremely challenging situation. A gentleman in his mid-thirties has been walking the streets causing mischief. On some occasions he has been seen standing at bus stops and watching our children. As a mother, I find the entire situation beyond upsetting. I strive to keep our home safe, to make my family feel welcomed, loved and well cared for. With a man walking the streets daily, pausing to look in windows, wandering in yards or simply hanging around bus stops, my goals simply cannot be met.

As a professional, I have a different perspective. The man appears to be struggling, to have untreated challenges which would make employment impossible. As a professional I want to know who his caregivers are and why on blistering cold days is he allowed to walk outside barefoot and in shorts. From my few interactions, I have been able to determine that we, as a community, have failed him. Somewhere, somehow he got lost in the system. Care and skills that should have been provided when he was a child were not. I feel frustration and guilt.

After months of thinking, conversations with law enforcement and my family, I have come to a conclusion. It is the responsibility of each citizen of Lawton to protect those who are vulnerable. Somehow, we have forgotten our responsibilities, we withdrew into our homes and expected law enforcement to do it all. The consequences are daunting. Every 26 seconds a violent crime occurs, every 41.5 seconds an assault happens, and every 1.5 minutes a robbery happens in the United States. In the nation, 1 in 15 women are survivors of rape and 1 in 4 girls, 1 in 6 boys are victims of sexual abuse.

There is only one way for statistics like this to be changed, to support law enforcement, get to know our neighbors and be a community. Please note, I am not supporting vigilante groups or the use of firearms or any other sort of weapon. I do not condone violence and do not believe two wrongs make a right.

No, I am suggesting, encouraging, shouting the need for us to unite as a community. Get to know your neighbors. Know which vehicles belong to them, and when you see a strange vehicle outside their home, keep an eye on their home. If you are home when bus routes are run, grab a cup of coffee, sit on your front porch and be present as children walk home. If you are out and see someone is struggling, ask if they need help.

If, and only if, we unite as a community will positive change occur. As a community we can build the Lawton we all want, we all strive for. As a community my neighborhood can once again be safe, and this man can receive the help he so desperately needs.

I love to hear from my readers. You can reach me at believestrengthpassion@gmail.com.

Sara Orellana-Paape lives in Lawton.

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