Being alert and watching out for criminals is a good thing, but vigilantism – taking the law into your own hands – is not, Olds RCMP Cpl. Shawn Morgan says.
Morgan made that point during a Rural Crime Watch Zone 2 (Central Alberta) meeting at the Cow Palace April 8.
“Be vigilant. Vigilant is good, but vigilantism isn’t,” Morgan said to the approximately 30 people in attendance.
“We’ve had incidents in the province where people are getting fed up, and rightfully so,” (but) people put themselves in dangerous situations,” Morgan added.
He said people who defend their property and confront alleged criminals with firearms can actually make things worse.
He cited a hypothetical situation in which police are called to a situation in which a homeowner with a firearm is confronting a so-called criminal who also has a firearm and both are threatening each other.
“As strange as it may sound, we have to protect the offender as well as the person who’s apprehended him. But we don’t know (who’s who) when we show up,” Morgan said.
He said movies in which the vigilante punishes the offender look and sound great but that’s a dangerous, unrealistic scenario.
“It’s cool to get away with all these things in Hollywood. But it’s Hollywood. This is real life,” Morgan said. “You’re setting yourself up for perhaps criminal action against yourself.”
He sympathized with a homeowner’s desire to protect their property and family.
“We’re protecting property. You know, it intruded into our lives, it intruded into our safety zone, into our castle, so to speak, and we want to protect that; we have a right to protect that. But how much is too much,” Morgan asked.
“So you’re protecting property and you end up taking a life on the other hand to protect that property, the scales don’t balance.
“I appreciate the frustration, but harming someone else or what have you with a firearm, you’re going into a darker area. Fine, upstanding citizens can find themselves in a very, very bad situation with the courts and can go to prison, and no one wants to see that.
“You’ll be able to see your grandchildren, your children. They don’t have to come to a jail or some such thing to have a visit with mom or dad,” he added.
“Be vigilant, but leave the arrests to us.”
“Vigilant is good, but vigilantism isn’t.”CPL. SHAWN MORGANOLDS RCMP