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Thursday, November 17th, 2011, 12:25 am

Is Shutting Doors Always Necessarily Safer?

SOME DEBATES are rarely tolerated because they challenge fundamental assumptions that are repeated over and over again. One of them is that by locking doors at all times we are all very much safer, insular from a world we assume to be only hostile and never altruistic. And this assumption will be challenged now with an example.

When I go to bed I generally always keep my door open — both main door and bedroom door of the apartment. Why? Well, because I know all my neighbours in the area and I generally trust them. Some people think it’s over-trusting, but they just don’t know the neighbours. They are people whom I know. I also don’t think of them as physical threat to me, in fact if someone was to assault them, I’d hurry up to help them, not having to struggle with barricaded doors. Statistically, break-in is not a high profile problem. It hardly happens and we have 3-layer gating, so one could intrude — maybe, at most — the ground floor. One might wish to worry more about heart attacks people might have than a burglar. And if a neighbour had a collapse and screamed for help, then a locked door would probably lead to a death that could be prevented.

I am generally in a position where I also realise that people like in Holland (famously even if it’s no longer true) would be in less risk. It is valuable to remember that when one locks oneself from the outside, he or she also locks the outside from oneself. Many issues are potentially caused by this. Ask a person why he or she gives a key to a neighbour or a friend. Sometimes when there is an issue like fire it’s good when someone else can rush in to extinguish it. A lot of people tend not to think of it, But here’s a thought: if a person gives keys to many neighbours, he or she might be robbed, even accidentally through loss of keys by another person. But robbery is not death. Basically, the person might want to consider how often — on average — for a neighbour to come in can help save a life or a home. In Holland, some people allegedly leave their houses unlocked (even whilst away). Then it’s a little harder to justify, as personal safety is not at stake.

Risk calculations are worthwhile. Like assessing the impact of war on drugs. Some people are shy to ask what would happen if these got legalised. What would police pay more attention to? Who would be locked up except the addicts? And these are legitimate questions. Not delving into these issues means that our law gets motivated by dogma and not always by pure logic that adapts to the times. Depending on the situation, it might be safer to leave the door open, especially when one lives on his/her own and is indoors.

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