Most arrests take place after a criminal act or enterprise has found its victim: Someone’s already been injured or wronged in some way and it’s become a matter of the police searching for and bringing in a suspect to face the music. But there are those cases in which a person appears on the radar of law enforcement before anyone’s been directly harmed, because someone — neighbor, family member, passerby — sees potentially worrisome events unfolding and raises an alarm. Situations like that have occurred in Roswell, including recently.
Only a journey through the criminal justice process provides the necessary perspective on what is changed or prevented by such an intervention, but the public can nonetheless breathe a sigh of relief. There’s a recognition that people’s willingness to call police when they perceive a threat is important. Especially these days.
Any number of things prevent people from making such calls when they see or experience something that makes them uneasy. They don’t want to be wrong and get someone into trouble, or hassled, for no good reason. People don’t want to risk wasting the time of police — they may talk themselves out of following their initial instinct, convince themselves whatever they’ve seen or heard is no big deal.
Some people simply don’t want to get involved in what might become a complicated or even dangerous situation. Not everyone trusts law enforcement. Not everyone feels as connected to the world around them as they should.
People are equipped with survival instincts for a reason: To keep ourselves and those around us safe. But any number of worries about the way we’re perceived by others (rude, nosy, suspicious) can keep us from speaking up. Though we live in what seem like angry, divisive times, most people — on an interpersonal level — still want to be polite.
We’re not far removed from mass shootings in Ohio and Texas that left 31 people dead and dozens more injured. Many things are discussed in the aftermath of such events — there have been enough of them that most Americans could make a list of the topics generally covered.
Plans are made. Here in New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham intends to convene what’s being called a domestic terrorism summit, “intended to catalyze a discussion about preventative steps the state can take, in conjunction with local public safety jurisdictions, toward comprehensive preparedness against actors who would seek to strike any New Mexico community with mass violence,” according to a press release from her office.
New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf proposed calling the Legislature back into session after the planned summit to focus on bills aimed at combating “potential domestic terrorism,” according to the Associated Press. But the governor squashed that idea, at least until more planning is done, calling the summit, “the avenue for responsible, high-level fact-finding and policy development available to us now.” One of the governor’s advisers, according to the AP, said a “red flag” bill is in the works. It would allow the seizing of weapons, with a judge’s permission, from those deemed “dangerous to themselves and others.”
It will be interesting to see where politics ends and effective action begins, but additional discussion and planning in the area of public safety is needed in New Mexico and elsewhere. The problems that have led us here aren’t going away any time soon.
On an individual level, there’s a fine line between the kind of awareness that’s increasingly necessary as violent attacks continue across the country, and feeling as though we could become collectively paranoid, a nation of snoops. It’s not finding the line that’s difficult, but knowing when to depart from it. Those who have remind us that vigilance is a shared responsibility.
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.