And one of the things that really struck me in the Phoenix area this trip was the cleanliness and the efficiency of their road system and their traffic enforcement.
The first day I arrived, I was driving from the airport on one of the freeways when I noticed a flash of light in the opposite direction. At the merge point of an entrance to the freeway was a bank of cameras looking at oncoming traffic with strategically placed strobes and cameras to capture the rear license plate of vehicles caught doing something outside the parameters of what is allowable.
Interesting, I thought. In various jurisdictions in Canada we have tried photo radar and it always required a manned vehicle to set up, program, monitor and take down the system. Yet, here was a completely unmanned system, permanently installed causing people to follow the rule of law. In Canada, it wouldn’t last a week before someone would shoot it up or otherwise render it inoperable.
A couple of days later, while walking to a restaurant in Scottsdale, I noticed a red light camera set up at the intersection of Shea Blvd and Scottsdale Road, both major arterials. But unlike the red light cameras we use in British Columbia this one was not high up, but at arm’s length.
In the Greater Vancouver area, at best, about 30% of the red light cameras are fully functional at any given time. Yet in Arizona, with its liberal gun laws and Wild West image, the devices were not only wholly undamaged, but installed at a height that almost anyone could literally reach up and touch them.
The streets were clean and devoid of litter, overgrowth and dust. In Vancouver, which is getting ready to host the 2010 Olympics, I noticed this morning while on my way to the airport, heading to the Centre of the Universe, that freeway ramps were overgrown, concrete medians had weeds growing through and everywhere on my drive from North Vancouver to Richmond was visible litter and a general unkempt appearance.
Vancouver, which clamors for the tag “World Class,” is fast becoming class-less. Abandoned vehicles abound. On most streets one can see the residue of broken car windows done to sustain the habits of junkies and meth-heads that we simply will not say belong in jail.
In Phoenix, they have Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arapoia, who treats criminals like criminals and tells them if they don’t like it in his jails, then they should behave so they won’t come back.
In Canada, where it is particularly difficult to do something egregious enough to actually get sent to jail, we do everything we can help the poor unfortunate thieves, dope dealers, murderers and rapists see the error of their ways in the vain hope they might return to society a valued and contributing member. And while that may be a worthwhile endeavor the first time or two through the system, we do it time after time after time after time after time.
Breach your bail conditions? No problem, here’s a couple more conditions. Breach Probation? That’s alright, have some more probation. Breach parole? That’s okay, we’ll work harder with you to help you become a nice contributing taxpayer.
In the 70’s and 80’s New York City was a frightening place, with upwards of three homicides a day, a cynical police force rife with corruption and organized crime acting as though they ran things and were untouchable.
Rudy Giuliani got elected Mayor in the early 90’s and espousing the “Broken Windows” concept of crime reduction, he literally cleaned up the city and made it one of the safest large cities, not only in the USA, but in the world.
Broken Windows was all about going after the bad guys for everything – jaywalk, here’s a ticket. Break into a car, you are under arrest. Breach bail conditions, go to Rikers. It was all about tough enforcement of the law and consequences for actions regardless of the seriousness of the offence.
But it was also about fixing things up so there was a standard of order, no broken windows (hence the name), no graffiti, no burned out or abandoned vehicles. Clean and safe streets was not only the goal of Giuliani, but the demand.
I saw the same results that New York achieved in Phoenix. Unfortunately, I see nothing of the kind in Canada.