An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
SMALL TOWN CANADA certainly isn’t what it used to be.
Remember when we went to bed at night and didn’t worry about locking the doors? When we could walk down the street in the dark without worrying about personal safety?
Not anymore. Merritt is the latest example of the loss of innocence in small communities. Not that Merritt has been free of criminal activity before now, but the events of the past week took it to a new level with several rounds of shooting incidents.
According to RCMP, they are working hard to put the matter “to rest.” Merritt Mayor Mike Goetz says the situation will be cleared up. Thankfully, no one was injured but it’s no surprise that residents are worried.
We must all hope these incidents aren’t a trend but there’s no doubt small towns are less secure now than when violence seemed like something that happened only in big cities.
Both in Canada and the U.S., violent crime is rising in small towns to the point that some studies say big cities are actually safer.
Why is this happening? Some blame it on the pandemic, others on the economy, others on isolation, still others on a lack of social services.
What’s baffling, though, is the comparisons between communities.
While the StatsCan crime severity index, including violent crime, has risen substantially for Merritt over the past few years, it’s very similar to Osoyoos, a town with very different demographics and economy.
And while the CSI has risen in Chase, it’s holding steady in places like Summerland and Armstrong, and has actually dropped in Langley township.
Maybe there are lessons we can take from small towns that are doing well.
Meanwhile, the experts insist Canada’s crime rate is, overall, low and that we live in a safe country. But it’s hard to take comfort from that when gunshots are echoing in your home town.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former TNRD director and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.