(This column was published in the North Shore News on Oct. 9, 2002)

 

Being a victim here is a sure thing

 By Leo Knight

CALIFORNIA has more than 1,000 high- speed pursuits a year.

 

Nationally, the United States has more than 20,000.

 

Tragically, 300 people will die every year in traffic accidents resulting from high-speed pursuits.

 

Here in Canada, there doesn't seem to be a central collecting of statistics on pursuits. But I'd wager were pretty close to California-type numbers.

 

There are at least three pursuits a day in the Lower Mainland on average engaged in by police. A little elementary arithmetic tells me that is almost 1,100 a year. And, I might add, California has over 50 million people living there while Greater Vancouver has a little over 21/2 million residents.

 

In a recent column, I compared the auto theft numbers in the Greater Vancouver area with other North American jurisdictions.

 

Not only is Surrey number one on the continent, but Abbotsford and Vancouver also figured in the top five. This places Vancouver - meaning Greater Vancouver - in the lead by leaps and bounds over anywhere else in North America.

 

More than East Los Angeles. More than Spanish Harlem. More than the five boroughs of New York City put together for that matter. More than Miami, Detroit, D.C. and all the other places in America we think of as "high-crime" cities.

 

Now let's add into this equation the related high-speed pursuits. We have a serious problem growing astronomically and almost unchecked by a justice system paralyzed by its stunning inadequacy.

 

There are, of course, a number of reasons for all this. It would be far too simplistic to simply blame the courts or to say that a judge is too lax. Clearly we cannot continue on our current path. Something has to give.

 

But hold on. There's more. Add into this equation all the lesser, but included offence, theft from auto, which has already reached stratospheric proportions in our city. There are some city blocks and neighbourhoods where it is simply inevitable that your vehicle will be broken into if you park it there. Just as sure as God made little green apples.

 

Last week, for example, I had a business lunch meeting at the still remarkably trendy Joe Fortes on Thurlow Street in the West End. I parked in the parkade built on top of the building on the corner which used to house the McDonald's and the Keg Alberni.

 

On the way up the ramp, for the first three or four levels, there were the tell-tale broken bits of shattered glass in most of the stalls.

 

And it's not just downtown or Surrey or New Westminster. In Friday's North Shore News there was a crime-watch piece depicting where vehicles were stolen from over the previous week. Sure enough, there was at least one on the North Shore every day. And we live in a relatively crime-free part of the Lower Mainland.

 

Every day there are about 40 vehicles on average stolen in the Greater Vancouver area. Every day.

 

When we add in all the burglaries, robberies, assaults frauds, extortions and such, we begin to realize your chances of being the victim of a crime in Vancouver is much greater than anywhere else in North America. Think about that.

 

I'm not trying to make you think things are hopeless. Quite the contrary, I'm hoping you are starting to get a bit angry.

 

The practical reality is that the individuals committing these crimes over and over and over and over again are the same people who are not deterred by their frequent forays through the revolving door of justice.

 

While the courts have a distinct effect, it is the politicians who have created a situation where we, the public, are being victimized time and again by thugs who do not see any meaningful consequences for their criminal actions.

 

But it is not just the weak-kneed ideological federal Liberals. Oh, they are no doubt responsible for what they have done to this country, but they are not alone.

 

The provincial government through the Attorney General, and the Solicitor General, has control over what the courts do and what happens to criminals once the courts have finished with them.

 

But it is also the local governments who must carry some weight of the shame in this. It is too easy for them to push the problem onto the province, responsible for the administration of justice or the feds, responsible for the enactment of legislation.

 

We are just entering an election campaign for local government here on the North Shore. It's high time we found out where those who seek office stand on these issues.

 

I don't want to have to place my family behind bars to protect them from the people who should be behind bars, but aren't because of the limp-wristed liberal loonyism.

 

I will vote for the person who convinces me they care about crime in our neighbourhoods.

 

I will vote for the individuals who understand there is a time to stop mollycoddling the thugs who merely laugh at our collective stupidity.

 

I will not accept one more politician, of any political stripe, who refuses to take responsibility for the rampant crime in our streets and says he or she will do everything they can to be true to the first and primary duty of government: to protect its citizenry.

 

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