EDITORIAL: Innocent bystanders do get hurt

EDITORIAL: Innocent bystanders do get hurt

We must be patient, but we must also not be in denial about the risk of collateral damage when crimes are committed

Notorious U.S. mobster and mob front-man Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel made the argument back in the early 1940s.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We only kill each other.”

But there was scant comfort in such assurances for an American public who knew from two decades of screaming headlines that ‘collateral damage’ from gang war shootings – particularly in populous urban and suburban areas – was an all too real risk.

It’s not a stretch of the imagination to connect a recent spate of ‘targeted’ shootings in the South Surrey area – four in the space of three days – to ongoing drug-gang turf wars across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. And when we see shell casings lying on the streets and shooting victims presenting themselves at local hospital ERs, it’s no longer possible to deny such warfare has reached our doorstep.

Surrey RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Scotty Schumann – while acknowledging that we have a right to be concerned about our personal safety and property security “without living in a state of fear” – sought to assure residents with a replay of the Siegel philosophy.

“The reality is, if you’re not involved in a life of crime, the likelihood of being a victim is very slim,” he said.

While what he said may be statistically accurate, it’s also of scant comfort to those waking up to the reality of the situation.

We can’t avoid the fact is that ‘innocent bystanders’ do get hurt when gang conflicts run riot over law and order.

Just ask relatives of Ed Schellenberg and Christopher Mohan, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time when drug dealers were targeted in the Surrey Six murders in Whalley in 2007.

Just ask the 64-year-old woman visiting from Ontario this summer whose shoulder was grazed by a bullet when gunfire between two vehicles erupted in the Newton area.

We could cite dozens of other cases in which, but for fortune, or some miracle, others on the sidelines could have been killed or seriously injured.

We don’t wish to disparage the efforts of dedicated officers are clearly working very hard to bring the situation under control. The promptness of arrests in White Rock after two of the recent shots-fired incidents in South Surrey is evidence of that – and that police are working not only reactively, but also from a proactive intelligence-gathering perspective.

The very nature of such work – and the realities of legal process – may mean that many of those arrested, as in the White Rock case, are subsequently released without charges being laid.

We must be patient, but we must also not be in denial. The warfare is now in our neighborhoods and we should take all due care to avoid risky situations and make sure we observe and report all suspicious activities so that police can continue to do the job we’ve entrusted them with.