I said to the missus today “Is it just me or have things gotten more violent around here?” She said that it wasn’t just me. This area of western Montana has always been pretty quiet. Mostly non-confrontational property crimes…very little face-to-face violent crime…a lot of stereos may get snatched out of parked cars but almost no one gets bonked on the head and dragged into a dark alley. Maybe someone gets drunk and shoots or stabs someone once a year or so. But, lately, there have been daylight burglaries, people waking up to find strangers in their house, people being accosted while out walking, and the increasing transient/homeless population doing their best to reduce their own numbers through attrition. Its gotten to the point that walking around downtown is to run a gauntlet of filthy and drunken transients asking for, and sometimes demanding, spare change.
I haven’t been concerned about violent crime directed against me in a very long time. Im usually armed, usually aware, and Im not exactly of small stature. Someone trying to rob or intimidate me has gotta be stoned, drunk, or a poor judge of potential victims.
But Im still disturbed by the recent increase in violent crime and criminal activity. Is it a result of the worsening economy? I don’t think so. A fella laid off from the paper mill after seventeen years doesn’t start breaking into houses or accosting lone women on nature trails. He may drink and smack his wife around, he may play skeet with the back of his throat and a shotgun, but he doesn’t usually go out and turn into a thug.
I suppose the economy could be responsible in the sense that people who were otherwise being ‘serviced’ through public programs are now out on their own and are full of resentment and Mad Dog. Much like how you feed a wild animal and when you stop feeding him he starts going after your chickens.
I suspect its going to do nothing but get worse for a while. People who feel hopeless are going to do stupid things, unbalanced formerly employed people will shoot up their workplaces, strained family relationships will fracture at an accelerated rate, resentment by the ‘have nots’ against the ‘haves’ will build with rationalized acts of theft and violence taking place, etc, etc.
This is all on a local level, mind you. On a national level, in larger population areas, the effects would be worse, Id imagine. You don’t seem to read too much about huge increases in violence and crime during the Great Depression. I suspect that was because there was a far more different moral code in place than today. Today people loudly demand their electronic benefits card and as many handout programs as they can qualify for…back then, being on any form of public assistance was a matter of great shame and many folks said theyd rather go hungry than go on the dole. And if you did wind up swallowing your pride and getting on a government program folks worked as hard as they could to get off of it as quickly as possible. Today, people game the system to get as much as they can. And today the thought of stealing, robbing or hurting someone for their property isn’t as repugnant as it used to b e. This depressino will, I think, be more violent than the last one.
I’ve become one of those people who says “I remember when I used to be able to leave my doors unlocked…” and then goes on to decry the current state of affairs. But, its true. I think there was a stretch of several years where I never locked the door to my house. It just wasn’t necessary. Didn’t bother locking up my bicycle most of the time either. But nowadays….now I try to be discrete about transporting firearms, I lock my doors, I vet my new neighbors, I scrutinize the people around me, and just generally live in Condition Yellow. It’s probably a better way to go through life than just blithely thinking the world is like some G-rated Disney film but I wish it was driven by choice and not circumstance. Still, it could be worse I suppose. At least here in Montana we can shoot back.