We are not the only ones

Published 10:56 am Monday, August 28, 2023

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Recently, a well-trusted friend and law enforcement officer talked with me about the seriousness of local crime. As I listened, he described something I had not expected to hear.

The officer did not disclose details of how drug use impacted our small towns, nor did he lament the waywardness of today’s teens by outlining how eager they sometimes seem to get “into trouble.”

Instead, my friend reflected on how crime impacts the victims, who sometimes feel as if they are the only ones targeted by community lawbreakers.

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In the course of a law enforcement officer’s 10- or 12-hour day, she or he may respond to several calls for assistance. Depending on the nature and severity of the situation, officers may complete a dozen or more contacts — traffic stops, conversations, arrests and investigations.

Over the span of several days, a week even, one can imagine the number of thefts, break-ins, assaults, or threats officers respond to, and sometimes they take part in efforts which are much more serious such as sexual assaults, kidnappings, missing children and murders.

In every situation, the victim usually considers the incident to be important. Robbery victims want their stolen items to be recovered. Assault victims long to see their offender off the streets.

And the families of murder victims want some measure of justice that will ease the pain of their loss.

Human nature drives most of us to consider our circumstances in a light of utmost importance. But one officer described just how many serious crimes he investigated recently and expressed a bit of frustration at trying to help a minor robbery victim understand that while their case was important, it didn’t trump a drug-fueled death threat, or a missing teenager, or a family murdered in their sleep.

I cannot help but think of another officer I know, who was forced to take the life of a gunman who, in a drug-induced rampage, had driven around town shooting and killing several people before he was taken down.

To this day, the killing haunts the officer, who considers the family of that gunman along with the victims’ families on many sleepless nights.

An officer recently told me that most robbery victims fall prey to theft only once. It’s a serious event to them but it’s another day at the office to someone who feels responsible for the safety of an entire community.

Knowing this makes my concerns seem so small. It also helps me have more compassion for those hurting around me and for the ones answering the distress calls to help them.

I hope this fresh perspective will make me a bit more patient and considerate of others who cross my path, and I hope you will also consider that you are not alone in whatever has come your way. Someone else may be going through something similar, or worse, but the one who responded to your call for distress cared enough to dedicate themselves to serving and helping you during your time of need.