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Editorial: Are we any less safe today?

What is especially shocking about the shootings in Sudbury this week is they come mere weeks after a report from the Greater Sudbury Police Service showing how crime in the city hasn't been this low in more than a decade.
What is especially shocking about the shootings in Sudbury this week is they come mere weeks after a report from the Greater Sudbury Police Service showing how crime in the city hasn't been this low in more than a decade.

Shootings — particularly ones as brazen as last week's — call into question those statistics. They put a solid dent in our sense of security.

The question we have to ask ourselves is: Are we any less safe today than we were a week ago?

The shootings are frightening and random, yes, but they demand that we consider if they skew those declining crime statistics to such a degree that we need to re-evaluate our perception of public safety in Greater Sudbury.

Like many of you, was floored to learn about Tuesday's drive-by shooting in Azilda. And, again like many of you, even more surprised by news of a second shooting — even more brazen than the first — on Barrydowne Road.

And, once again like many of you, we wonder if a new era of crime has come to our city. Has Greater Sudbury reached such a size that we should come to expect such big city nastiness as the new reality?

The answer is, most probably, no. It would be a huge assumption based on two incidents, no matter how dramatic those incidents are.

But there are many unanswered questions. Was the intended victim of the Azilda shooting also the intended victim in the pickup truck that was chased and shot up on Barrydowne? Are the perpetrators local? And finally, why did this happen?

The police should be commended for pulling out all the stops to get to the bottom of it all, applying, as lead investigator S/Sgt Al Asunmaa said last week, a full-court press of resources to the case. Progress is being made.

Police have already determined the suspect vehicle's make and model from surveillance footage, and the investigation has ruled out street gangs and outlaw biker clubs as elements of the crime.

If true, from this one statement, we can safely assume the shooters are A) local; B) known to each other; and C) the incidents are related, likely to the drug trade, as Asunmaa also said.

That it's not gangs or bikers from outside the city flexing their muscle is relieving, but that criminals would be so bold could indicate the stakes are pretty high and high stakes lead to desperation, and desperation leads to irrational behaviour — and that is truly frightening. Irrational people take irrational risks without considering the consequences or the collateral damage.

No one wants themselves or a loved one to be that collateral damage.

If the intent of the shootings was death, and not a warning, then there could be more attempts, which means police are, literally, under the gun — a fact of which they are likely well-aware.

There's an air of unreality to the whole affair. This is the stuff of Hollywood gangster films, not of small Northern Ontario cities.

And yet, they did happen. Here. In our city.

It is tempting to speculate on the reasons behind it all, but it is important to keep a tight rein on our emotions after an event like this. It is understandable that people let their imaginations conjure up all sorts of scenarios to try to make sense of it all, to give it a sense of order.

It might be understandable, but it is not advisable. With such limited information, it's too easy to go down that rabbit hole, too easy to go from speculation to certainty.

While it is definitely frightening that these shootings occurred in our fairly quiet city, we shouldn't be too quick to jump to conclusions or give in to unreasoned fears. It doesn't mean we should deny the possibility or discount the potential; it just means we should keep our minds open to any eventuality and let the police dig into the case.

But not so open a mind that our brains fall out because the crime stats speak for themselves. Greater Sudbury is very safe place to live. These shootings alone can't change that.

We might not be less safe, but the shootings have certainly made us feel so.

Feeling, however, is not the same as being. The challenge is not to give into that fear, to stay rational and right-thinking — both the public and the police.

The moment we give into that fear is the moment it no longer matters if the perpetrators are caught, because that will be the moment fear wins. And if fear wins, we can never truly feel safe again.