Monday, September 13, 2010

Sacramento art-walk shootings revive safety debates

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The shooting death of a 24-year-old man and the injuries sustained by three other persons Saturday night - in an incident a few hours after end of the popular 2nd Saturday Art Walk - has awakened old notions that Sacramento in not a safe place after dark.

The art walk has been in good part credited with helping the revival of the neighborhood called Midtown, an area that fills most weekends with crowds of people mostly in their 20s and 30s. Complaints earlier in the summer led to an increase in police presence for the art walk Saturday when as many as 10,000 additional people swarmed the streets, visiting art galleries and creating an almost-Mardi Gras air.

Now, with a shooting that took place within a few feet of patrolling police officers, the safety question is back - and probably won't go away easily.

Already, the merchants who benefit from the art walk - and Sacramento's Mayor Kevin Johnson  - have been talking bravely that people should not let a thug or two destroy this monthly event.

That's a nice sentiment, but doesn't make people feel any safer who are considering joining the thousands of people who will be wandering that area in October.

The shooting element is what makes this incident so disturbing.

Had this been a brawl in one of the local bars that spilled out onto the street, it would be easier to dismiss. Bar brawls are a common outgrowth of too much alcohol and too many people packed into a small space. And people seldom die in those.

But when bullets start flying on public streets, people are going to think more than twice about putting themselves in the line of fire.

An old friend, stationed at Mare Island Naval Base in the early 1970s (now a resident of suburban Phoenix, Arizona), wrote to say that the incident is very different from the Sacramento he remembers:

"When in Vallejo many years ago, we'd jump in the '66 Chevelle and run up to UC Davis and/or Sacramento.  Sacramento would start with cruising J and K streets, and then going from there.  Sounds like a different place than when it was the '70s, long hair, beer, other substances, and no fear of violence."

Sounds like the good old days.

A 2nd Saturday art walk earlier in 2010

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