EDITORIAL: More to fear than fear itself

We can't allow our neighbourhoods to become war zones

When shots ring out through residential neighbourhoods and flak-jacketed police officers with assault rifles are down on the corner, it can be of little comfort to hear that we – the generally law-abiding public – are not at risk.

Yet this is the message we receive all too often, when violent, targeted crime hits closer to home.

This was the message in Sunnyside last Friday, when police received a call for assistance from a residence, only to find a homicide scene when they arrived. While neighbours were assured there was no threat to public safety, the presence of a police dog sniffing an ever-expanding cordoned off area and the arrival of members of the Emergency Response Team, guns at the ready, indicated otherwise.

True, most of us are not involved in a lifestyle that brings us into frequent contact with the police, or makes us a potential target for shootings or other violent acts.

And true, the police often have more information on crime victims and potential suspects than they’re ready – or legally able – to share.

But that’s not exactly reassuring once violence invades our own, usually quiet streets.

We don’t need another Surrey Six tragedy to tell us that the violence engendered by criminal activity is conducted with anything but surgical precision. Innocent people can, and do, get caught in the crossfire of revenge exacted, warnings sent – even police standoffs.

Wars are never without ‘collateral damage,’ and if we permit war – whether between criminal factions, or between criminals and the police – to be waged in our streets, we are all potential victims.

While the ability to deploy highly-armed, armour-wearing officers may indeed be necessary under certain circumstances, it should never be considered a ‘fix’ for the basic problem.

However jaded we get, we cannot permit this to become the norm. As professional and effective as the officers may be in performing their duties, their presence must be considered a last resort.

The point is that having a suburb transformed into a war zone must be the exception, not the rule. These are not conditions we should be expected to tolerate as a fact of modern life.

If they are, then we, as taxpayers, are not receiving the protections supposedly guaranteed under Canadian law – and something must have gone drastically wrong with our thinking about law enforcement.

 

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