18,669 reasons to feel safe

Russell
Russell Wangersky
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It’s 18,669 and counting. No, that’s not the number of times I’ve complained about the last seven sitting governments that I’ve covered in the media (although it could be close to that) — it’s something else entirely, and something worth thinking about.

For the last 18,669 consecutive days and nights, I have not been the victim of any form of violent crime. I have not been robbed at knifepoint or been the subject of a home invasion. I have not been punched in the face outside a downtown bar, or had someone jab me with a potentially infected needle.

Now, things have happened. Someone skilfully detached, and fled with, a whole window-box filled with flowers from the front of the house several years ago, and another fine upstanding citizen climbed into my unlocked car and left with a handful of personal items. So, property crimes, yes.

But, knock on wood, I haven’t been assaulted or had a shed torched.

And it’s not from living in

some blissful universe chemically detached from reality, either. I think about crime often. I’m almost pathological about checking to see that the doors are locked before I go to bed — it’s easier for me to check three times than to try and fall asleep wondering if I’ve actually checked them. Heck, I’m even sitting here wondering if I’m not tempting fate by pointing out my own good fortune.

But sometimes, I’ve gotten up in the morning and found that the house has somehow accidently spent the night unlocked, and even then, hasn’t been pillaged.

This isn’t to discount the legitimate feelings of those who have had precious items stolen or worse — certainly, there is crime in the province, especially in St. John’s, and it’s fair to say that the capital has a growing drug problem and the associated crime issues that grow with it.

And perhaps that string of 18,669 consecutive nights will end tonight; there is sufficient randomness in the land of crimes and opportunity that anything can happen any time. It’s no different than the daily lottery we enter every day by doing something as simple as getting behind the wheel of a car to drive somewhere.

But the thing that I find truly surprising is that, if I were basing my relative good fortune against what the media brings to my door every day, I would feel very lucky indeed.

Perhaps it’s because the twin pillars of the media are weather and crime: no matter what kind of news week you’re having — whether it’s summer or winter or spring (fall is always busy enough in news-land anyway) — you can count on crime and weather to fill the most crucial of spots.

Look at television news: CBC and NTV have virtually no established and consistent “beats” for journalists, areas where they cover just one issue, day in and day out — except for courts, politics and the weather.

Newspapers? Well, the Thursday Telegram had four crime stories in its first 12 pages; Wednesday had two in the same number of pages, and that was a light day.

I covered the crime beat for a while and there were a couple things that became apparent right away. One was that there was a  nucleus of “regulars” getting charged. (That still happens — if someone is charged with a crime, and then also with five or six breaches of their release conditions, chances are they aren’t newbies.)

The other thing was that, in a city like our city, the vast majority of violent crimes occur between people who already know each other. It almost suggests that you’re more likely to get punched in the face by your brother or your spouse than you are by anyone else.

And that, frankly, can happen no matter how many police officers there are and how long court sentences become.

Sure, this is not the Newfoundland of the ’60s or even the ’80s — report a break-and-enter and you’ll feel like you’re taking a number at a garage and waiting to be served during the annual first-snowfall snowtire free-for-all.

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: because crime and punishment are so consistently available in the news — and have become such consistent bandwagons for politicians to attach themselves to — we have a disproportionate sense of just how dangerous our world actually is.

Go through court dockets across this country and you’ll see that drunk-driving cases still outnumber almost everything else combined — clearly not everyone has gotten it through their thick heads yet just how dangerous driving drunk can be.

I’ve got plenty of reasons to stay awake worrying at night. We all do. But on at least one front, I’ve got 18,669 reasons not to.

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s

editorial page editor. He can be reached

by email at rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: CBC

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • grisha
    May 28, 2013 - 11:40

    Gee, thanks Russell. Now you have me wondering if I locked the house up when I left this morning.

  • Colin Burke
    May 27, 2013 - 11:22

    Reading this column reminded me of a short item I wrote in the 1970s while a reporter with The Western Star, after taking the police report from overnight. The Corner Brook city RCMP detachment had recorded four arrests, all of them for public drunkenness, and the Corner Brook RCMP rural detachment had recorded two arrests, both of them for public drunkenness. To those short statements of fact, I appended a brief comment: "The incidence of crime is greater in urban areas." The editor cut that bit out. In those days I had a bit of fun inserting bits the editor later cut out. I even still have my carbon copy of a very short story about MP Jack Marshall from which an editor failed to edit something after I felt certain he had caught it. Mr. Marshall was very nice about it, asking only for a written apology to be shown others only if someone brought the matter up, which so far as I know no one did except for one person's remarking to the editor, "That was a strange thing for Jack Marshall to say." Another time, an uttterly absurd statement was preserved from publication by one colleague's looking among my carbons for something to give her a chuckle and another colleague's awareness of the innocence of editors and linotype operators (anyone remember those?) Ah, those were the days; thanks for the reminder, Mr.Wangersky.

  • crista
    May 25, 2013 - 08:33

    Of your 18,669 days and nights for reasons not to.What have you gone through???? take a look at your government sittings???? your covering of stories and your editorial pages and the way you have to inform the public for the reasons for public interest???? and also the position you work in,it would remind or come back to memory of some one that could get very confused with in those days and nights???? then you got to look at how much was done and how much was not done and how are you and not only you are left carrying what actually goes on about what you mentioned in your article,not saying it is not an interesting article???? one would have to say it would have to be interesting job(s) would you say and the types of humans you had to deal with in those 18,669 days and nights???? now the the question how much was done to benefit society living in the faith of our times now look at it from the start of these 18,669 days and nights and look at this in your view of what has really gone on???? and what has not been done and what should have being done and come to your own conclusion and to any one that is reading your article???? and ask your self who are the ones better off and think of the ones who has to keep it going because of some one else's decisions and choices????and not only talking about the 18,669 days and nights you mentioned in your article????