Colorado Springs is not around the corner. But the effects of a tragic shooting there the day after Thanksgiving have trickled down and made a very real impact on Suffolk County.
We spent much of the fall season interviewing candidates running for various offices, and more than once we were reminded that our county police department was being stretched too thin.
Fast forward a few weeks to the aftermath of Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado that killed three and injured nine. Our county police department announced it would be increasing patrols near the five clinics in its jurisdiction as a result. The department also committed itself to training Planned Parenthood officials in crime prevention, which hopefully will provide a more lasting impact on preventing similar tragedies here.
Sometimes there is a disconnect between the national conversation and the small-town scuttlebutt, but this is an example of how one person’s actions can have a nationwide effect. In our case, it is strapping an already taxed police department.
The consequences are real, and there are things we could do on a local level that could perhaps trickle in the opposite direction — up to the national conversation.
We could strive to better care for our neighbors, both through publicly funded mental health programs that provide more access to treatment and more comprehensively deal with mental illness, and by speaking up when someone we know is behaving erratically or speaking in an alarming manner. We are seeing more and more irrationally thinking people commit acts like the shooting in Colorado Springs, in which the assailant targeted people unknown to him. And it seems impossible that none of these perpetrators displayed irrational behavior or thought beforehand.
A strongly connected community is an excellent safety net. We should work to weave ours tighter.