Which is safer: Afghanistan, or Akron?

Most people would think that getting shot at is deadly. You might be surprised to know that most shots either miss or the victims are treated for wounds and go on living.

Take a recent weekend in Akron.

On Friday, Aug. 24, a 54-year-old man said he heard shots outside his house and went to take a look, then heard another shot at close range, but saw nothing. False alarm, apparently.

On Saturday, a resident reported a young man walking down the sidewalk get into a shooting match with three people in a car driving down the street. Both the man on foot and the car left the area after the brief gun battle.

Around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, police responding to a call were told a 24-year-old man who had threatened to shoot a woman in an incident earlier in the day had shot an 18-year-old man in the head and chest. There was no word on the 18-year-old’s fate. He had been taken to the hospital by a family member.

Around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, an unknown man jumped out of some bushes and robbed a 39-year-old man returning home. The victim first ran, then fell after the suspect shot at him. The suspect fired at him again, missing again, then robbed and pistol whipped him.

On Sunday night, a 19-year-old man was shot in the leg by someone in a car who drove by a basketball court he was at with a friend.

Three days, five shooting incidents. Two teenagers hospitalized. A couple days later two men were shot in a barber shop, one fatally.

The daily reports to news media come from Akron Police Lt. Rick Edwards. I've been getting them for some time and the weekend I just described — not counting other incidents — is pretty much average for the city.

He said last month that probably the worst weekend he's seen for some time took place just after Independence Day, when there were nine shootings, including at least three men who were found shot in the head in apparently separate incidents.

In July and August there were about 30 shooting incidents in the city. 

I don't have the figure for how many people died in those two months, but 42 people were murdered in Akron last year — more than the 29 Americans who were killed in Afghanistan over the last two years.

You might think I'm getting ready to talk about gun control. Wrong.

An argument could be made that restricting access to guns would reduce crime. A counter argument would be that criminals don't obey the law, so why deprive people of the right to defend themselves while walking down the sidewalk or heading home at night?

Akron has always had a higher crime rate than surrounding, more affluent communities — that's the case with most big cities. There's also a well known problem with gangs in the city.

But Akron is also full of beautiful neighborhoods, a vibrant downtown and a rich history. It's also a far different place today — nicer in many ways — than when I moved to Ohio in the mid-1990s.

So, why am I writing this?

I keep getting Lt. Edwards' emails, and every time I read them, I can't help but feel horror at some of the events he describes.

Like one of the first, which was a home invasion where two armed men walked into the back door of someone’s house around 8 p.m. one evening. They demanded money from the several family members present, including children, and on their way out the front door saw a neighbor looking at them from his porch and shot him in the leg.

In some places, police are overwhelmed, like in East Cleveland, where I once tried to get in touch with a detective serving as public information officer about the death of a suburban resident. He didn't get back to me for two weeks, despite my leaving several messages.

Finally, I reached him and he flat-out said he does not have time to research a weeks-old murder for the newspaper. He was busy working on last week's homicides and assaults.

There’s plenty of crime out there, but the fact that so much of it is so common in the big cities should give everyone in the area a reason to think.

If people can get shot on the sidewalk in Akron or East Cleveland, what’s to stop it from happening in quiet little towns elsewhere? After all, our communities here in Northeast Ohio are fairly close together.

What's the difference between a young man who carries a pistol to defend himself from his neighbors in the big city, and one who lives unarmed in a well-to-do suburb?

All I know is I just keep getting terrible, sad reports that have nothing to do with where I live, but are happening right down the road. 

And there is no end in sight.

Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or emarotta@recordpub.com.