Let’s harness fear of random crime
Big sigh of post-All-Star Game relief.
No mayhem marred the events. Catcalls to the Yankees’ Robinson Cano and fans mobbing Hollywood train wreck Charlie Sheen don’t count. That’s trivial, the sort of thing to be expected at any major public event.
Kansas City gratefully escaped the incident that could have really damaged our image nationally.
And that’s the perception of out-of-control crime that arises when groups low-lifes fire weapons at each other. “Rolling gunfire” is a term most people know. A gun spree in an area filled with out-of-towners was among my fears.
Wait. Something like that did happen. In case you missed it:
Buried in the briefs section of Tuesday’s newspaper was this horrific nugget: An Independence woman was driving early Saturday near 63rd Street Trafficway and Interstate 435. A bullet crashed through her windshield, hitting her chest.
“The victim looked down and observed ‘her guts’ hanging out of her chest.” That’s a police quote to send chills.
Obviously, all violence is bad. Shootings always affect far more than just the person wounded. But I have far greater sympathy for this woman randomly hit by a stray bullet, than for someone who courts a bloody fate.
And that’s part of the power of such incidents. It’s one thing to hear about a drug dealer being shot, even killed. And quite another to picture the completely innocent person — who could be virtually anyone — wandering into gunfire. Random crime drives fear. And it’s usually out-sized to the chance of it actually happening.
And yet, it’s not such a bad thing if more people become fearful, not if it sparks change. This opens the conversation that wider swaths of society only care about urban violence when it trickles into predominantly white areas (think Country Club Plaza). As if shootings don’t rile emotions unless the thugs roam west of Troost Avenue.
There’s truth to that contention. But I’d like to see fear of random shootings turn to something productive. And that will call for input from people who normally assume they are safe from crime, just by virtue of where they live, further from the East side where more murders occur.
Here’s the reality check. Chief of Police Darryl Forté’s blog reported last month that homicide rates have stayed relatively stable in recent years. He also noted progress in taking guns off the streets in higher rates than previous years.
Seizing illegally-owned guns is a start. New laws targeting random shooters probably aren’t necessary, unless they aid in arrests and prosecution.
Community norms and attitudes are what need to change. And that means more people saying: “Not on my watch. Not in my town.”