When it comes to news about crimes happening in the community, I tend to react like a lot of us do. I am desensitized to it. It seems to be in the news all the time. I think it is happening somewhere else and to someone else and don’t think much about it.
On Wednesday April 17th, a woman was shot and killed in an altercation in a parking lot in Preston. Initially I read about the incident in an online edition of the local newspaper. I was a little troubled thinking that something like this shouldn’t and doesn’t happen in Cambridge, but otherwise went about my day.
It wasn’t until 3 days later that I was speaking with my parents and the incident came up in conversation. Again, my initial reaction was, this is a sad thing to happen in our city and that was it. When my mom mentioned who the victim was, everything changed. Helen Schaller. Putting a face and a name on the victim really brought it home for me. The Schaller family were people we knew growing up. We went to school together. We went to church together. Fred Schaller coached my high school wrestling team.
The incident went from an afterthought to a real concern.
How could something like this happen? Why did it happen to someone like Helen Schaller who gave so much to the community where we live?
Could it happen to someone close to me? My wife? My children?
The death of Helen Schaller came only months after the shooting death of Kurt McKechnie on Southwood Drive in Cambridge in January. Added to that, there were two separate shootings in Uptown Waterloo over the Easter long weekend.
Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin recently addressed the local media with regards to the rise in violent crimes that have occurred in the region.
“We do believe there is a risk to public safety, and I want to be clear, there is a risk to public safety in all of these incidents even if they are targeted, in the sense that we do have somebody that has committed a heinous, terrible, violent crime that is still not in police custody or in the judicial system.”
Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin
This surprised me. I never thought I would hear these words coming from one of our community leaders.
Personally, I still feel safe walking the streets in Cambridge. I still feel this is a safe place to live, work and raise a family. It is not going to stop me from doing the things I have always done.
However, I started to think that something like this shouldn’t happen to anyone in our community. I wondered how someone like me could help us achieve that goal.
Carol Thorman is the sister of Helen Schaller, and a Cambridge business owner. She released a statement to the media following Helen Schaller’s funeral on behalf of the family. She encouraged all of us to do what we can to keep our community safe.
“Use your words to make sure that our police force has the tools and manpower they need to get these dangerous criminals off our streets. Just listening to the police scanner shows how thinly spread their resources are in relation to the number of calls they get.”
She encouraged us to speak to our elected representatives to get them to fix the root causes that can lead to violence.
“Use your words to let every level of government know that what we demand better solutions, such as more mental health resources, affordable housing, rehabilitation beds and rapid access clinics.”
By writing this, I hope I can do my part. What happened to the Schaller family shouldn’t happen to anyone in our community. I’m using my words to encourage you to use your words too.