When is it time to panic?

By THERESA WELLS, Connect Weekly

There is something both intriguing and worrisome about being on the media list for the local RCMP. As a member of the media, it is a necessity to keep informed of local occurrences, including those that may include flashing lights and loud sirens, but occasionally as a resident it can be a bit alarming to read press releases about crime, particularly the spate of gun-related incidents we have seen this year.

It seems to be the white elephant in the community, too, as chatter on this has been mostly minimal aside from the occasional Facebook post about whether or not this remains a safe place to raise children. I firmly believe it does remain a safe place, but I think we would do well to drag this bit of criminal activity out of the darkness and into the light, as we cannot address anything by sweeping it under the rug.

The truth of course is that we have crime in Fort McMurray, and one could reasonably speculate that much of the recent wave of gun crime is related to drug trafficking. No evidence seems present to indicate these are random shootings, which is of course a good thing, but we must recognize that turbulent economic times often go hand in hand with increased levels of criminal activity.

A friend in law enforcement once told me you could chart the increase in crime, including domestic violence, whenever the economy dips. The adage is “desperate times call for desperate measures”, although perhaps what happens in desperate times is that we see a surge in desperate people, fighting for drug turf or over unresolved financial debts.

Are these truly desperate times in our region? I don’t think so, although to deny the troubling signs of an economic slowdown would be foolish as they are unmistakable.

Are these truly desperate times in our region? I don’t think so, although to deny the troubling signs of an economic slowdown would be foolish as they are unmistakable.

Accompanying those troubling signs may well be an increase in criminal activity as my law enforcement friend witnessed, which makes discussing the issue even more vital as we look to shepherd our community through this time.

When my daughter was younger – and feeling anxious, I would say to her that I would tell her when it was time to panic. She would look at me with wide eyes and say: “Is it time to panic yet?” and I would reassure her that it was not time to panic and that all would be fine. The reality is that it is never time to panic, as panic indicates a loss of control and reason which makes us ill-prepared to counter whatever we are facing, and so I never answered her query with a yes.

The comments I do see about the recent shootings fall into the “Is it time to panic?” spectrum, with residents wondering if this is the time to be afraid or worried for their safety in our community.

This is instead the time to be aware of what is taking place in our community and to start doing a few key things:
– Get to know your neighbours.
– Look out for your neighbours, meaning if you see suspicious activity report it.
– Keep an eye on your neighbourhood, like parking lots, and report activity that seems odd or unusual.
– Don’t avoid the topic of crime, but don’t sensationalize it either; just be aware of what is happening in your community and neighbourhood.
– Discuss crime with your family, including your kids: this can be tough as you don’t want to frighten them, but older children will hear these stories through some channel and it is preferable for it to come from you.

Our community is remarkably resilient and strong, and we have a cohesiveness that tends to increase during difficult times. As we face an economic future that is a bit uncertain and on occasion worrisome we need to work together to protect our community, our neighbourhoods and each other.

Our strength is found in our resiliency and our cohesiveness. And far from being a time to panic, this is an opportunity to develop those qualities even further.

We may not be able to stop the shootings we have heard about, but we can very likely affect the incidence of other crimes, like theft from vehicles and homes. It takes being aware, getting to know our neighbourhoods, taking action and talking about the issue instead of pretending it does not exist, and it is my sincere hope this column inspires you to do exactly that.

And oh yeah – it isn’t time to panic yet, either.

– Connect Weekly –