Opinion Columns & Blogs

Old Town shooting is everyone’s mess

We can say, “This isn’t our mess.”

We weren’t lingering in the street at 2 a.m. March 10 when, according to The Eagle, bullets began piercing the night air in Old Town, leaving one person dead and four other people wounded. We weren’t hanging out in an area where a 2003 parking lot shooting killed a 25-year-old man, where another parking lot shooting in 2006 wounded six people, and where a 2008 stabbing critically injured two men and a woman in their 20s.

We may not have contributed directly, but this is our mess.

People definitely should take responsibility for their own actions, but don’t we all share this space and the civic-leadership responsibility to act in its best interests? Will bullets target only “them”? Will year-end homicide tallies have “us” and “them” categories?

What about the officers who chased a suspect into the parking garage and exchanged gunfire with him? They’re with us, right?

And the innocent people trying to move their cars out of the same parking garage, they’re with us, too, right?

Aren’t the business owners with us, too? They didn’t ask anyone to bring ammunition or attitudes to Old Town that night.

It’s difficult for those of us not directly involved in such a mess to accept or adopt any responsibility in cleaning it up, but there are clearly shared bridges of concern. When people elsewhere learn about this, they may label ours an undesirable place.

So this is our mess. Whether or not we had a role in what happened, we have a stake in eliminating these incidents.

So what would acting on our part of this mess look like?

Maybe volunteering for a youth organization. Asking friends and neighbors if they share our concerns and forming a community organization. Asking police to host a public meeting at a substation where we could learn more about the problem and about what’s already being done.

There’s a multitude of things we could begin doing if we used our imaginations. But we also must remember that complex challenges defy simple solutions.

The officers who chased an armed suspect into a dark parking garage deserve medals, but hiring more officers won’t make violent people nonviolent.

Nightclubs could establish or reinstate dress codes, but that wouldn’t cause violent people to stop lingering, fighting, carrying guns and firing them into crowds after the clubs close.

A lot of us may want to visit this wonderful and award-winning entertainment district, but perhaps won’t because of such incidents.

So, if we choose to share in the benefits of our city – the sights and sounds and flavor – we must share in the ugly, disturbing messes, too.

Until we do, we won’t be as engaged or as safe as we should or could be.