When the annual tally of area homicides comes out, the performance of law enforcement officers comes under scrutiny. Why did North Charleston see an increase in homicides from 13 in 2012 to 16 last year, while Charleston's dropped from 36 to 32? Ask the police chiefs.

Indeed, those authorities are the ones whose job is to keep communities safe.

But they don't bear the total responsibility. People who are concerned about violent crime, particularly crime committed by juveniles, might want to consider what they can do to help.

There is good reason police regularly plead with the community to give them information that might help prevent or solve crimes. Without that information, their job is a lot harder - and the community is more at risk.

Many residents with information are afraid to speak up. They're afraid of retaliation against themselves or their families.

But they and their families are at risk if they don't speak up - if they look the other way, giving criminals the time and opportunity to do more violence.

And police are better able to protect people in a community if they are well informed.

Beyond the immediate neighborhoods, there are other ways to help. For example, business owners might consider giving a young person a job, helping him learn skills and responsibility, and giving him a reason not to get into trouble.

Communities might support recreational opportunities like sports teams for young people.

And parents, well, they need to parent.

Last year 46 people were killed in the tri-county. North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers told The Post and Courier that he grieves for every victim and family. "For me, it's not about the numbers, it's about the individuals involved."

Parents can identify with the chief's sentiment and can make a decision to prevent violence from happening in their own homes. If they don't, someone they know or love could become a number on the list of homicides.

Already this year, that number is three in North Charleston.