The news that a woman was chased through an Aldergrove park by a masked man is alarming – but what is more alarming is that similar reports from police come in several times a year.
Most such alarming incidents are less dramatic but still disturbing. A woman who is followed for several blocks by an unknown man, or a girl who is urged to get into a car by a stranger.
Most of the these cases end with the girl or woman safe and a warning going out to the community, but some turn into violent attacks.
We could argue that the overall numbers of sexual assaults and attacks on strangers are relatively low. That might be true, but even a small number of incidents can make the entire community unsafe.
The RCMP issue lists of measures individuals can take to make themselves safe after each of these incidents. Don’t wear earbuds while jogging, be aware of your surroundings, call for help, and get to a well-lit and public area.
But the community has to take responsibility. Part of that means adequate policing resources, of course.
There is also our responsibility to build safe communities so everyone can be safe in public spaces. That takes in a broad range of measures. Creating well-lit paths and installing security cameras fall in with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.
We also have an obligation to try to prevent offenders from becoming offenders – preferably by heading off disturbing attitudes towards women among young men.
The ideal community would be one in which anyone could go for a stroll alone at midnight with no fear. It may not be possible, but that should be the goal we work towards.