It’s the little things that matter most

For those folks who have wondered where I have been in the past couple of weeks, I took a break and went down to the desert in Arizona to do a little golfing. Well, more accurately, a lot of golfing.

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.

Leo Knight

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  1. Why didn’t you just stay there and help clean up a cave for Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper to join you?Life must be good there for all those 19,000$ a year cops.And the crime rate is so low.

  2. Hmmm. . . . and I thought people who could only contribute this level of thought to a subject were unable to read . . . I guess I was only partially correct. They can read, but writing anything comprehensible and intelligent is beyond their scope of ability. I stand corrected.

  3. Spot on, Leo. Except for the part about “Breach Bail Conditions?” The last few years the usual response in Vancouver Provincial Court has been “well sir, it appears you just seem unable to abide by these conditions so we’ll just remove them, you’re free to go”. You’d think a judge might think ‘I gave this guy a break letting him out in the first place and now he’s pissing on my shoes? Remanded in Custody”. But that would deprive his lawyer of the garanteed income his presence on the streets continues to provide each and every day.

    Time to start electing them.

  4. Isn’t Phoenix where Mexican army members are free to practice home invasions without interference from the local Boo?The citizens are getting real value for their tax dollars aren’t they?Your article sounds like Walter Winchell’s gushing on about his 1936 visit to Berlin and his meeting with Hitler.Heil Harper!

  5. I love it…Some things just speak for themselves.

    This “article” doesn’t really speak, but mumbles. And we can see why.

    Mercer’s 2008 slaps rhetoric back into its hole and
    presents the facts

    New York and “cities” throughout Arizona top the list in all categories. No they don’t.


  6. whats wrong with you guys,,dont you get the point of the arizona/newyork thing?,,,its simple,,,if you are a bottom of the barrel city by Western standards u are the best!!! dont you get it?? the best dammit!!,,,hurrah for bottom of the barrel standards!! now THATS civic pride in action,,,,usa! usa!,,,,,aaaaaahahahaa!


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