Recently, a man was shot and killed in my neighborhood. I didn’t know him, nor do I know what lead to the incident. I can’t pass judgment or offer commentary, beyond extended my thoughts and prayers to his family. However, the whole thing got me thinking: what’s the best way to handle something like this? How do you respond in the wake of an act of violence in your neighborhood?
First and foremost: panic and spontaneous emotional reactions are off the agenda. There’s nothing to be gained from snap judgments or shooting from the hip. You must think with your brain, not with your feelings.
From there, I recommend taking a step back and putting the incident in context: What caused it? A crime of passion or a moment of anger between individuals necessitates a different response than a gang or drug-related crime. For the former, it’s important to remember that this particular act isn’t likely to repeat itself. Do what you can to help your neighbors through a tough time, and just accept that we live in a flawed world and sometimes trouble comes looking for us. Your emotional reactions can run the full gamut from shock to fear to indifference—and that is 100% OK. There’s no one way to handle something like this. Process your responses as best you can, put them somewhere, and move on with your life. Bad things happen; don’t let them run your life.
The latter case—violence stemming from drug sales, gang activity, or another persistent problem—is a bit more complicated. If this is the case, you will be facing a series of choices, some of which are difficult. Organizing a community watch, working closely with local police, and volunteering with at-risk youth to help keep them out of trouble can counter these problems. Likewise, setting your own house in order and upping your home security game is an important step. Once all that is underway, the only thing to do is keep working and see how things go. Did the situation improve? Great!
If things do not improve, you will have two choices. The first will be toughing it out and the second is relocating to a more desirable neighborhood. This is an awful choice and I can’t tell you what to do, or even if you’ll be able to move.
One point about gun ownership in a troubled neighborhood: keep your firearms discreet and secured. A home burglary that helps arm the bad guys is something we’d all like to avoid.
When violence intrudes into an otherwise peaceful neighborhood, the most common response is a blend of shock and fear which is understandable. But my strongest suggestion is to become proactive. Communities don’t’ often go downhill overnight. When they do, the cause is often in part our disconnection from each other. Building community, connecting with our neighbors and taking an active role in civic life used to be the mainstays of civilization. I’d like to suggest we bring them back and see if that doesn’t improve things at least a bit.
At the risk of sounding self-serving: a trip to the range or a round of skeet shooting can go a long way toward making new friends. So consider inviting your neighbors for your next round of range therapy—it might just make the world a better place.