There’s an old saying: “You can make statistics say anything.”

An extensive Web search by The Observer shows that when it comes to finding out what the average is for clearing murder cases – either arresting a person or persons, or what the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation calls “exceptional means,” which often means the culprit was killed – the numbers fluctuate greatly.

Some numbers show the U.S. average is 65 percent of homicides cleared, but that number doesn’t reflect the reality that many small communities have clearance rates of 100 percent while some large cities have much lower rates. For instance, one source said the city of Miami clears only about 20 percent of its murders.

So what can be said about the Royal St. Kitts-Nevis Police, which have arrested suspects in four of the eight murders committed so far in 2008?

Since statistics vary so widely, it’s hard to find an easy yardstick to judge their work. Clearing 50 percent of the murders is, by many standards, good work. It also leaves the question: What about the other 50 percent?

It’s known that suspects have been questioned in at least two of the other murders and that all four investigations are continuing. It’s possible that a break could come at any time and more arrests will follow. We hope that happens. We congratulate the police on the arrests already made.

What should not happen is any letup by law enforcement officials, political leaders, church leaders and other community figures to continue to denounce violence and lawlessness in all of its forms. A period of relative calmness does not mean the criminal element has given up or that problems with gangs and drugs have gone away. It just means that the criminal element, for its own reasons, has decided to lay low.

Announcements made during the last several months by Prime Minister Douglas and Premier Parry calling for more police efforts and more public support of the police should not fall on deaf ears. Calls by numerous community leaders for stronger families and an observance of fundamental values of decency should not go unheeded.

It’s also worth noting that although the victims and the accused in the murder cases fit the profile of Caribbean involvement – males under 30, many with gang connections or involved in drugs – there are many more fine young people in the Federation who are looking for positive roads to follow. Various government programs and groups have been publicizing their efforts on behalf of these young people and we encourage them to continue to do so. Their work will ultimately prevent crime and reduce the need to solve it.

Again – we urge law enforcement agencies to continue their work on all fronts. We urge the public to get behind these efforts and political leaders to do so, too. Crime is a fact of human existence as old as recorded history, but bringing crime under control for the betterment of all is a contemporary challenge that can be met.

That is what we must do.