As we continue to navigate our way through this COVID-19 virus crisis, I am seeing signs and concerns of potential violence breaking out in several areas. First the unprecedented nature of this national shut down is being handled pretty well so far by the majority of Americans, but we have to assume that the longer this goes on the harder it will become for more and more people.

We know from general knowledge that there is a portion of our population that are unstable in normal times. When we add the stress of the lock down and the fear generated by the media, legitimately or not, we know that this heightened stress level can drive some people over the edge.

We are already seeing some cracks in our normal behavior; the food hoarding is one clear example. People that would never act so panicky are now buying every pack of meat that is put out, all the toilet paper they can carry and booze by the boat load…..just in case. This “just in case” mentality is the signal we should be looking at for cues.    

So far, the food chain, electric and gas, water supply and gasoline are in good supply with no anticipated interruption at all. In fact, you can get everything you need if you just take your time to find it. So why then are people hoarding?

There is an underlying concern, brought on by the media hysterics about the situation that causes even the well-adjusted to consider the fact that food and other things we need every day could dry up and not be replenished; therefore I better get everything I can now before its gone.

This underlying concern is joked about in some circles and commented on in dead serious tones by others. The differences in how this is perceived is stark, but it is there on a daily basis, that is another cue we should be looking at.

As the virus continues to rack up victims, those who are mildly sick and those who are dying and everyone in between, the pace of concern will grow as well. As the forces in our society that hold the chaos at bay are knocked off the front lines, and here I mean police, fire fighters EMT’s and other emergency responders that normally keep the devil in check. As these resources dwindle, we will see the inevitable rise of the advantages takers of our society emerge. They are the people that will use the limiting of police response to commit, at first, petty crimes, but as the response is lacking that will naturally escalate to more serious crimes; it is human nature.

This all became very clear for me when I watched a video of the NYPD making a simple arrest on the streets of NY. The two officers confronted a man who was with a woman and for whatever the initial reason was⏤the man was advised he was under arrest. 

In days gone by that might have led to a few words being exchanged between the officers and the arrested person, but the arrest would have been “routine”- the person would have submitted, been cuffed and take to the police station for processing.   

But we are not in the days gone by, when respect for authority held more sway over the average citizen. To be sure there have always been incidents of minor resisting arrest, and even severe resisting arrest where the officers had to wrestle the suspect to the ground and then cuff them up. These are not pretty when they happen, but they were common. 

What was uncommon was what I saw in that video and in many others⏤anywhere on the internet for that matter, the subject violently resisted and during the struggle the suspects girlfriend got involved and interfered with the officers. A crowd gathered and began shouting insults and edging closer to the officers. As the crowd got closer the two lone officers were shouting to “Get back” but no one did, in fact they got even closer. Finally, at one point a man in the crowd runs up behind the officers and starts punching him in the head.

The crowd, many who were video recording the event and screaming at the cops⏤that they were “Recording you”, were not helping the officers. You could see the concern on the officers faces as they had to attend to the suspect, his girlfriend, and now the crowd. It was clearly getting dangerous. 

On top of that mayhem you could tell the officers were not taking the actions they should take to move the crowd back⏤verbal orders first, then going hands on to the worst offenders to end the chaos. They did not do that because they were afraid (my belief) that they would not be backed up by political officials and in fact might be disciplined for doing their jobs and protecting themselves, a real concern for today’s police officers everywhere. 

The scene played out with back officers arriving and trying to disburse the crowd who only became more agitated, more unruly and more violent towards the officers. It was clear that the crowd was not afraid of breaking the law, causing mayhem, injuring the officers or starting a riot. This event and many like it are part of a drip, drip, drip of growing violence in our streets. 

The fact that the politicians are catering to the violent street crowds and not worrying about the decent citizens and cops that have worked those streets to maintain safety and order is another cue we need to recognize. 

This type of scene will manifest itself in more and more locations until it comes to your town. As our first responders are diminished, danger will rise. Look for this in the coming weeks. The evidence is clear that we are losing great numbers of police and others. In NJ they are considering allowing retired police officers to come back onto the job to help with the needs of the crisis and supplement the regular officers who are going out sick or injured.

We must all heed these signs, they are clear. 

Another area of concern I have is the potential for violence in our workplaces and schools when the world comes back online. The built-up anxiety from the COVID-19 crisis may push some people over the edge who would not normally be a threat. It is an important task for all of us to undertake, this looking for the signs.

We know human nature, when it is combined with a sense of freedom and lack of concern over consequences that emboldens the dangerous among us. We must stand up for the rule of law, police and the other first responders and we must demand our leaders do as well. The world will change after this. We can learn from the struggle and be better, or we can find ourselves in a dystopian future we are not prepared for.