Lasha Morningstar


June 29, 2015

Thunderous banging on my front door. It's going on 2 a.m. Tuesday. My dog Poppy flies off the bed, barking and growling.

Me? I'm more angry than afraid. I call through the door, demanding in a not very nice voice, "Who is it?"

"City Police," came back the ready answer.

Quickly, I opened the door just a smidgen. A rescue dog, Poppy, despite classes and ongoing love and affection at her day care, still operates on attack mode. I grab her collar. The fresh-faced young constable – when did they get so young? – gives a ready explanation.

"There's been a violent death. Did you hear anything?"

Living one door down from a busy city street, one easily learns to tune out outside noises. I say "No," and then out of my sleep-deprived brain emerges a dumb question. "Was it a murder?"

Patiently he replies, "Violent deaths usually are."

I close the door. The red glow of the myriad of police cars' flashing lights are reflected on the closed curtains. Poppy and I tumble back into bed.

Come morning, the neighbourhood is awash with police cars and vans, yellow crime scene tape, TV station reporters knocking on doors. Poppy and I flee.

Clicking on my computer at work, I read initial paragraphs from various news organizations telling of a "suspicious death" in my back alley.

Already reeling from the senseless murders of City Police Const. Daniel Woodall and RCMP Const. David Wynn, I feel the murder on my doorstep as a thump on the head.

This is a society that accepts violence. The practical response would be to think, "Get used to it."

Part of my heart cannot.

My favourite TV show is Blue Bloods. Built around the Reagan family, the various members are all engaged in some level of the legal system from beat cop through to police commissioner to assistant district attorney. The generations gather together every Sunday for a typical Irish Catholic dinner. Life events are shared, squabbles erupt and are sorted, but you know this family has each other's backs.


As much as I would like to say it is the family dynamic and their palpable love for each other that is the main draw for me, the storylines are usually structured around some violent crime. Murder. Rape. Drug deaths. The episodes do not always end happily, all tied up in white tissue paper and pink ribbon.

So maybe I am part of a society that accepts violence.

I hope not.

A move to start a Neighbourhood Watch program in the area failed. Most say it is because long-time residents are selling because of increased traffic and the upsurge in crime. They point the finger too at renters moving in, moving out after a few months, too many partying hard. Drug deals go down in alleys. The seniors and young families don't feel safe anymore, even when taking their usual evening stroll.

Talking to them, one discovers they do not want to leave. Their homes are full of memories. Their gardens are lush with carefully tended perennials. They have roots here.


It is time to be vigilant in our neighborhood. Stand up to greedy speculators trying to force homeowners out of their dwellings so they can raze the once-loved homes and throw up a row of vinyl-siding townhouses.

Report the licence plates of intruders going into a home when the taxpaying owner is at work. If you are really gung-ho, video them. The police love that sort of evidence. So do grateful homeowners.

As the posters say, "Be the eyes (for the police) in your community."

My mind keeps slipping back to Andrea Marie Berg, the woman murdered in the alley. My neighbour found her body beaten, wrists, ankles and mouth taped, her body stuffed in a shopping cart. He is shaken to his core.

He says, "Too young. Too young. She had her whole life ahead of her."

Note to self. The next time I meet a police constable – a man or woman who puts their life on the line to keep us safe, I will smile and say "Hello, and thank you."

(Lasha Morningstar