Tuesday, October 10, 2006

About the Shooting at Saima Park

Over the last weekend there was a shooting at Saima Park. Per the Sentinel & Enterprise:
The Saima Park shooting occurred just before midnight Saturday night at a 15-year-old girl's birthday party.

The gunfire left one Fitchburg resident dead and three others hospitalized.

The other three gunshot victims, one of whom is a 15-year-old Fitchburg High School student, are in stable condition, family members said Monday.

The shooting happened after unwanted guests were asked to leave the party, a "Quinceanera" for a Fitchburg girl, 15.

Police arrested Xavier A. Santiago, 17, of 115 Chester St., for the incident Sunday, charging him with murder and three counts of assault with intent to murder.


[Police Chief Edward] Cronin said his job now is to find ways to prevent incidents like Saturday's from happening.

But he stressed he doesn't want leniency for those found responsible for the killing.

"I have no doubt that whoever is responsible for this will be caught, prosecuted, and will never see the light of day," Cronin said.

Cronin said such shootings aren't unique to Fitchburg.

"It's an absolute reflection of what is going on across the country," he said.

A sign of the times?

Fitchburg is becoming more prone to gun violence, especially among youth, [brother of the victim, Luis] Colon said.

"This place is getting worse and worse, and obviously the police aren't doing anything about it," said Colon, who grew up in the city. "It hasn't always been this bad."
Ah yes, that wonderful fact-free Sentinel & Enterprise reporting.

Sure, they got the basic facts right. Somebody got shot. The shooter was Hispanic (sure to inflame the anti-Hispanic sentiment already present in town). And umm... it's representative of what's going on across the country and Fitchburg is "becoming more prone to gun violence".


What's going on across the country? Well, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
  • Since 1994, violent crime rates have declined, reaching the lowest level ever in 2005.
  • Homicide rates recently declined to levels last seen in the late 1960s.
  • The proportion of serious violent crimes committed by juveniles has generally declined since 1993.
Given all that, just what's going on across the country that we're supposedly a part of? Homicide is going down, juvenile crime is going down, violent crime in general is going down.

Is it maybe possible that occasionally "shit happens" and we're just unlucky enough to be in the vicinity of it this time? What are you trying to make us afraid of, Officer Cronin? Surely this isn't an attempt to procure more funding for your department despite there being no facts to back up your allegations that this is symptomatic of a national problem, right?

Of course not.

Now, as for Luis Colon's statement, I absolutely feel for him. He lost his brother to a senseless tragedy. He can say anything he wants, but it's hardly going to be an unbiased appraisal of the situation.

Is this place getting "worse and worse"? If it's a member of your family who got killed, yes. If you look at the general homicide rate, Fitchburg has fluctuated from between 0 and 3 homicides every year between 1980 and 2004 (the most recent year I could find information for). The FPD puts out an annual report (2004 annual report here as .pdf) which sure doesn't make it look like things have been getting worse and worse. Hey Sentinel, how about reporting the facts about whether or not gun violence actually has gotten worse and not just what one grieving family member believes? Or would that be too much like actual reporting?

Okay, so what do we end up with?

A tragic shooting, yes. Not a national epidemic, nor a regional one. Bad things sometimes happen to good people. We can live in fear and focus on Fitchburg's supposed "crime problem" (doesn't seem that bad to me). Or we can get on with our lives and do what we can do to make our community better.

I know which one I'm picking. How about you?

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