Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Apr. 20, 2009)


Tough times on the way for creeps and thugs


  By John Martin

A couple of incidents in two different provinces may amount to a harbinger of things to come. First is a much-discussed incident in Alberta where Brian Knight, a farmer, has been accused of chasing and shooting a man whom allegedly attempted to steal his ATV. While the roughed-up thug and a couple co-accused face charges, the bigger story is Knight himself, who has been charged with seven counts, including assault and criminal negligence. He has quickly achieved folk-hero status as donations pour into his legal fund and support is heard from across the country.

More recently, a group of would-be jewel thieves found themselves in the sight lines when a Vancouver jewelry shop owner refused to play the helpless victim. The in-for-a-surprise trio of goons barged into the downtown store and one waved a gun while another began smashing display cases with a hammer. The owner pulled out a firearm of his own and fired at least one shot, possibly hitting one of the men before they made their getaway.

The grinning shop owner told a reporter who asked if he was worried about being charged, ""No, I am not worried about myself, okay? We're fine — family fine — okay?"

Both stories have been media fodder as citizens and pundits weigh in with their two bits. On one hand we are reminded of the dangers of people taking the law into their own hands while on the other, there is, considerable support for people who stand up to the bad guys in a time when crime and violence appear to be getting worse.

Both positions are not without their own merits. But regardless of an individual’s opinion on these and similar incidents, one thing is evident. Unless things change dramatically, and one shouldn’t be overly optimistic at this point, we should expect a lot more of these types of stories in the future. Many people, rightly or wrongly, truly do sense a state of abandonment as news reports of violent crime and gang-related gunfire dominate the headlines.

There is an ever-increasing concession that the police are unable to provide the level of service and protection most people expect of them. This is exasperated by a justice system that is seen as wholly ineffective. This perception is only confirmed as time and time again we hear of someone being arrested for a violent offence who was on bail at the time. Some people respond to this perceived reality by cocooning; staying home as much as possible and avoiding the places and activities that used to bring them happiness. Others go about their routine in a state of nervous apprehension or outright fear.

Understandably then, there is a considerable amount of admiration and envy when we hear of people who, the law be damned, take a stand by fighting back against those who have no respect for society’s rules and values.

Cases like these put the justice system in a tough spot. If the farmer and jeweler are charged and convicted they achieve instant hero worship status. If they’re let off the hook, it sends out a message of reassurance to others who might be pondering stashing a firearm under the bed or beside the cash till.

Regardless, there is every reason to expect more and more of these types of scenarios until some sense of confidence in criminal justice returns.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2009