Prime Time Crime


(Prime Time Crime Feb. 23, 2009)


Tough Times


  By David Toner

These days it’s hard getting anyone to think or talk about anything other than the economic hard times, and watching their investments slip away. However, recent events have me and many like minded people thinking on a much scarier prospect than losing the “Freedom 55” dream. As I sit down to write this article, metro Vancouver has just seen its twelfth shooting in the past fifteen days. This most recent brazen daylight gun attack occurred a mere seven blocks from my home. Hours after the crime took place, I could still see the police helicopters circling overhead as I sit at my desk, and as I drove to the neighbourhood video store to return a rental, I was acutely aware of how close to home all this took place.

What comes along with that awareness is a kind of numbness as we become so bombarded with daily atrocities that we begin to refer to this as the “norm”. How did we arrive at this point? This is not Canada is it? My East Van neighbourhood is fast coming to resemble South Central Los Angeles or New York City in the early 90’s. It should be pointed out that both those places have cleaned up considerably since then, especially New York.

How was that done? Simple really; public safety and security became the priority. The combined federal, state and municipal governments got tough on crime, to coin a phrase. A concentrated political effort was made to change the way things were being done, and it worked. Perhaps not so simple really, as it did require a cooperative effort on two fronts; street level enforcement and presence being the first component, and tougher judicial sentences being the second. Our Canadian leaders should take a lesson from this, and stop pointing the finger at each other and citing jurisdiction issues.

As the Provincial Budget came out today I watched in shock as the budget for court services was cut by $8.9 million and prosecution services by $1.2 million. So let me get this straight… In the wake of the worst gang violence the lower mainland has ever seen, our government has just ensured that the court backlog will increase and more of these thugs will be walking our streets. That’s exactly what’s going to happen now. Defence lawyers for these thugs will successfully argue that lengthy delays’ bringing their clients to trial violates their Charter rights, and charges will be dismissed. This is a worst nightmare scenario for victims of crime. Already victimized by the perpetrator of the offence, now the system is re-victimizing them by creating a roadblock to justice that will likely see many less criminals convicted. Of course our quick stepping Attorney General, Wally Oppal is quick to say “We’d never do that.” Let’s wait and see Wally.

Also today federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said BC has become the gang capital of Canada. Well at least we’re number one at something! Our men and women in uniform must feel like they’re rowing a sinking ship. By our Mayor’s own admission Vancouver is 500 police officers short of other cities, comparatively. And now spending has been slashed for the already underfunded justice system. This really makes you wonder who we have leading this government, and what their priorities are.

On the bright side, no cuts to spending on public education or health care were forecast.

Mr. Campbell and company should consider that post secondary education dollars won’t help if our kids don’t survive high school, and we won’t live long enough to need health care if this gang war continues unchecked. Let’s get our priorities in order people.

 David Toner is President of Families Against Crime & Trauma (F.A.C.T.)



Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2009