Opinion: Keeping crime in perspective

While we work to make Chilliwack a safer community, we should not lose sight of the good that's being done every day.

“Chilliwack residents living in fear,” read the breathless tweet promoting a Vancouver morning radio show. Online comments shouted similar sentiments, portraying events last week as the latest evidence of a city in decline. They confirmed what many thought they knew: Chilliwack was awash with crime.

And yet, as the sun shone on city streets Friday morning, and downtown merchants waved hello on their way to work, “fear” wasn’t an adjective that really fit.

To be sure, events last week were as shocking as they were tragic. It is a rare thing for a man to be stabbed to death in front of horrified shoppers in a crowded parking lot on weekday afternoon. Couple that with the fact police responded to a stabbing a day earlier, and that an arrest has yet to be made in the shooting death of another man a few weeks before, and concern is understandable.

But it doesn’t justify panic.

Bad things happen in Chilliwack. And there are parts of the city where they happen more frequently. Property crime and thefts from vehicles has grown by more that 20 per cent recently, bringing a welcomed joint police response that just two weeks into its three-month run is paying dividends.

Substance abuse – and the violence and criminality it spawns – remains a concern that multiple agencies are co-ordinating to tackle.

But those who focus only on the bad fail to see the good. Last week offered two examples: There was the stunning show of support for the residents of Fort McMurray who were driven from their homes by fire. Volunteers were able to pack four semi-trucks with supplies donated by the community and driven to distribution points in Alberta. It was a remarkable show of resolve and compassion for those who had escaped the flames with only their lives.

Then on Saturday, another group of individuals assembled in the former parade ground on the UFV campus for the annual Run For Mom. Their efforts helped raise more than $16,000 for a fetal monitor for the Chilliwack General Hospital obstetrics wing.

True, life’s not all sunshine and lollipops. Chilliwack has its share of real problems. And an argument could be made that taxpayers should dig a little deeper to bolster police resources. The Upper Fraser Valley detachment is large, with complex policing requirements. More money would certainly help manage those complexities.

It’s not a guarantee. More police does not translate into less crime. But greater bench strength gives police greater flexibility to try more imaginative things – programs that build better relationships in the community, and help deter crime.

For that conversation to happen, however, we need a dialogue fuelled by facts, and not by fear.