Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Everything is fine

A short time ago there was a murder within a few meters of my building.  In fact Elli and I wandered right past the site of it afterwards, noting the police cars but not otherwise being bothered.  Only afterwards did we find out that it wasn't the usual thing where the cops are hassling (or helping) some homeless person in an alley, but rather someone with known ties to organized crime being shot many times through a car window.

My part of town isn't exactly a crime ridden one, so this was unusual to say the least.  However, I saw no reason to react to it since it was obviously a wild outlier and nobody reasonable could assume that I was less safe just because this happened.  Just one more reason to avoid involvement in organized crime, as far as I am concerned.

But other people decided that action needs to be taken.  At our parent council meeting last night there were parent concerns brought forward about security, such as requests for more cameras, buzzer/intercom systems, and other security to attempt to make the school safer.

This sort of thing makes my blood boil.  For one, the incident had *nothing* to do with the school.  Unless the kids are players in the cocaine smuggling market or maybe importing illegal handguns then there is nothing at all to suggest that the school should be concerned.  Moreover one incident, while it does get people excited, it not at all useful for deciding on policy.  You don't wait until something local happens to figure out how to run a school, you decide based on large scale data.  Nothing has changed!

More than that though it bothers me to see security theatre that is utterly pointless.  Intercom systems that buzz in absolutely anybody aren't useful.  Do dangerous or violent people get turned away?  If not, then all you are doing is annoying people.  Slapping more locks on doors that consist of a single pane of glass makes things more frustrating for the people who want to be there, and does nothing to stop someone intent on violence.  If someone really wants to hurt people they will just smash the glass, or even wander into the school yard during recess and open fire on the entire school population... who can't escape *because the doors are locked*.

People even tried to sell more security on the grounds that things are more dangerous these days.  Which they aren't.  Violent crime is down, way down, and we are safer than ever.  Just because you can't avoid hearing about violence on social media is no reason to assume that there is actually more of it, particularly because there isn't.

I get it that other people aren't like me.  They hear about violence, they get scared, they want reassurance.  But we shouldn't suddenly expect everyone to start throwing away money and sacrificing time and freedom just to salve frayed nerves.  "I feel scared" is totally legit.  "I feel scared so big changes need to be made, even if they made no sense" is not.

If someone decides to attack children at school there is nothing useful we can do to stop them.


We can try to teach people empathy, we can try to treat people who have issues that might make them dangerous, and we can try to otherwise create a society where attacks against children are unthinkable, but no amount of physical security can work when we know that lots of random people need to be able to get to the children all the time.  Parents need to get in, deliveries need to be made, teachers and other staff have to be able to move about.  We simply can't build a wall that keeps out the bad people while leaving the good ones able to actually do their jobs and live their lives.

I ranted a bit about this at the meeting, trying to convince people that this was not a useful line of discussion.  For one, parent council isn't responsible for security, and we aren't the ones who can make the decisions.  For two, suddenly changing course on the basis of a frightening but totally unrelated event is terrible decision making.  Unfortunately I suspect I pissed people off but I doubt I changed a lot of minds.  If I was politically astute I probably would have insisted that somebody should do something about this, referred it to a committee, and quietly buried it in a month when everyone forgot about the original incident.

I am not interested in being political though, so I told everyone that kids are safer now than ever before, our current security measures are worse than useless, and the proposed increased measures would be more of the same.

This, I am sure, will not make me popular.


  1. I agree with your opinion and support your actions. Good work.

  2. I thought about you and this blog post specifically, when I read the following: http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/08/22/490847797/why-do-we-judge-parents-for-putting-kids-at-perceived-but-unreal-risk?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20160822

    1. Argh, stupid broken link...

      It's an article about how we (as a society) are failing children by not letting them take risks.

    2. Argh, stupid broken link...

      It's an article about how we (as a society) are failing children by not letting them take risks.