A group of Cooma ladies were having lunch last week. Catching up on the news, several of them told how they had made extra efforts to lock up their houses, particularly at night, and to make sure the curtains were tightly drawn. They were apprehensive, and fearful.
The reason? The alleged escape from a work program at Snowy Oval of a convicted murderer who until that moment was residing as a "model prisoner" in the Cooma jail. The presence of such a man in Cooma, out and about in public places, was not known to most of the local population.
It wasn't only the Cooma ladies who became nervous. Students at Monaro High School - only a very short sprint from Snowy Oval - were subject to a "lock down" because of the alleged escape. Snowy Hydro at Cooma North was also locked down. Parents of children at other nearby schools later expressed shock at the events.
These are just some of the examples of community anxiety in the aftermath of the escape. It was anxiety because a convicted murderer was one minute described as a "model prisoner," the next he was "dangerous." And he was in our midst, on the run, with unknown intentions.
Authorities have spent some energy since then playing down the incident and defending the work release program, its benefit to the community, and the money it has saved.
No doubt they are right, but only - some community members might think - up to a point. The alleged escapee was serving a 23 year sentence for a particularly brutal crime and he escapes into our community, near a school, close to houses and flats. The consequences could have been horrendous.
It's time to re-think the work release program and put better safeguards in place to ensure our safety, and to make certain it never happens again.