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No one deserves to be murdered, and no murder should ever go unsolved. Unfortunately, people get murdered, and far too many murders are never solved.

Tariq Sharif Alston, who would have turned 24 last week, exemplifies a few of the shortcomings of our society.

Certainly Mr. Alston could have done more to avoid trouble; characterized as a likable young man by family and friends, nonetheless he had more than a few contacts with the criminal justice system in his short adult life. It’s hardly reason for him to have ended up on the wrong end of a gun. The inability of police to make an arrest in this case is especially puzzling, at least on the surface: On July 13, 2008, he was shot and killed at a private party at a hall rented from the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company. Certainly someone must have seen something.

Indeed, Mr. Alston’s father, noting that “the streets don’t lie,” claims he knows the identity of the killer and has told police, but they haven’t made an arrest.

The word on the street may be deadly accurate, but it doesn’t hold up in court. Police need more to go on than just what the father heard from people in the know who did it.

Unfortunately, in certain communities, distrust of police has been the law of the land for generations.

Add to this a mindset that has brought us things like the infamous “Stop Snitching” video, and you have a situation where it’s especially hard for investigators to get solid evidence. Fear of police and fear of retaliation are strong incentives for keeping quiet.

Who’s at fault? There’s plenty of blame to go around. Overcoming a culture of mistrust of police isn’t something that happens overnight, so officers on the street today have to work hard to overcome mistakes made in the past.

Society at large has a substantial responsibility. If witnesses know who did it and are afraid to cooperate with police, that’s bad enough. But people who just don’t want to get involved, or worse yet believe the law of the street should prevail, fuel a cultural deterioration that will bring us all down in the long run.

The murder of Tariq Sharif Alston was a terrible thing, regardless of any mistakes he made in his life, but the tragedy is magnified by the inability of society to bring his killer to justice.

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