Enforce the Law
Over the last weekend I was pepper sprayed on the front steps of my home. What was I doing to deserve this? Was I protesting “the man” without permits? Was I threatening a police officer or citizen? Was I picking a fight with, robbing, or assaulting anyone? No. I was walking home from cat sitting a friend and neighbour’s grumpy old feline. Sick and tired all week, the last thing I was attempting to do was find trouble. However, as is repeatedly the case south of 107A Avenue, trouble proved largely unavoidable.
I’d like to say that this was an isolated event and that I feel safe in my neighbourhood and around downtown, but the reality is that this was not isolated and I do not feel safe. Personally, I’ve been verbally assaulted while walking and running, pushed twice near Mary Burlie Park, grabbed running up the stairs in Louise McKinney Park, tripped (attempted) running down 96 Street, followed and threatened while getting to my car, and threatened while gardening in my front yard. I have had my garage broken into multiple times- all of this within the last year.
Typically, my participation in these events is nothing, or a sustained effort to not get involved, or to ignore what might be aggressive posturing. Am I an especially prone target? This seems unlikely, as I know friends and neighbours who have experienced similar events over the last year. The issue, I think, is that I try to live in and around my home as I would in other areas of the city and I am largely unwilling to give up urban territory to bullies and thugs. I don’t avoid walking south of 107A Avenue or down 96 Street nor do I avoid other “bad” areas if they are on my route.
So, now the question becomes should I as a single person living in my home stop walking through my neighbourhood, avoid potentially risky situations, and stay indoors at night? Should I take the option of paving my front yard, locking my front fence, and only driving out of my garage? Should I modify my standards and lifestyle, say that I’m not experiencing impacts and pretend that I have a perception problem or that it is my own fault? Should I just say screw it and move? Or should I push even harder for the re-establishment of a safe community?
The EPS and the City acknowledge there is a big problem and they present “getting to know our neighbours” and “building community” as the solution. In other words, the problem is our fault because we have failed to do this. Well, I know my neighbours and I am part of a community. I suspect you know your neighbours as well. Hmmm . . .
As a resident of the block near the Boyle McCauley Health Centre and Mustard Seed, I feel betrayed by decisions that have allowed problems to concentrate and escalate here. I feel betrayed by the EPS and by the City for tacitly supporting a double standard in policing, for failing to recognize that there are more than one set of rights in play here, for turning a blind eye to unacceptable behaviour, and for continuously devaluing the contribution to the neighbourhood made by actual residents trying to just live a normal life.
I am tired of our neighbourhood being “special.” I’m tired of “razzle-dazzle.” Please, just enforce the law.