I have low hopes for Dave Bronconnier (Liberal Mayor of Calgary) doing much regarding crime in our city. As Rob C aptly pointed out in a comment in my prior posting, our Mayor is prioritizing pissing money away on grossly overpriced pedestrian bridges as opposed to addressing the exploding street violence in the city. Whether it is crime, infrastructure, housing or any other issue, Bronconnier’s response to issues has been pathetically predictable. Bronconnier whines and shifts blame to the federal/provincial governments and holds his hand out for more money much like an irresponsible teen who has pissed his allowance away on toys and now cannot afford bus fare to get to school. There has never been an indication of any initiative or creativity on the part of Mayor Bronconnier. He simply keeps spending money on idiotic and poorly managed projects, and then raises taxes upon Calgarians while snivelling to every other level of government for more funding.
As I said before, it will take effort on the part of every level of government in order to stop this growing trend of violent crime. The criminal code of Canada is federal jurisdiction. Harper has been trying to pass justice reform to no avail for years now. Hopefully Harper indeed gets the majority required so that those reforms can be passed into law. While the proposed changes may not go far enough in my view, they certainly are a step in the right direction. The provinces are responsible for management of legal proceedings and management of correction for criminals sentenced to less than two years (a sadly large amount of sentences). To his credit, Stelmach has been speaking of pursuing bail reforms and hiring more prosecutors in hopes of cutting back on bail being granted to violent criminals. The province has some authority on the appointment of judges as well and I do hope that they begin to appoint wisely.
In the realm of our violent and repeat offenders, sentences and parole must be addressed and that is federal turf. That the the number one problem regarding the violent crimes.
In the city of Calgary there are many things that can be done with the resources at hand and we need not wait for federal or provincial initiatives.
New York city in the 80s was known around the world as a haven for lawlessness and violent crime. In my youth I remember the images of graffiti strewn subway cars and gangs roaming the streets unchecked. Shootings occurred daily on the streets of New York and the city was constantly the butt of dark humour as it’s citizens lived in fear.
George L. Kelling and Catherine Coles wrote a book called “ Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities” which expanded on an article that Kelling wrote in the 80s. The basic premise of the initiative is that urban crime needs to be tackled from the bottom up. That is summarized below:
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.
Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.
The bottom line is, when there is an appearance of no pride or order, disorder will grow and flourish.
My son works downtown. One evening not long ago I went to pick him up from work. I arrived early so I parked in a lot across the street from what is known as the “Crack Mac’s store” on 8th and 8th. I cannot count the open drug transactions and solicitations that I saw in that short 15 minutes. These dealers and buyers did not even make a token effort to hide their activities at a busy downtown LRT stop.
With a targeted crackdown on known dealing spots such as these, I understand that crack dealing and use will not be eliminated. What will happen however is that the visible tolerance of this crap will disappear. What kind of municipal pride do we have when we let this happen right in plain sight? How many commuters choose to walk blocks in all seasons in order to avoid using that notorious train station? The simple presence of a couple police officers there would end that.
Broken windows, graffiti, aggressive panhandlers and open drug dealing all lead to the atmosphere of lawlessness that breeds even more crime. We have lost municipal pride and it is showing on our streets.
We need to take on a zero-tolerance approach and aspects of the “broken windows” method have proven to be greatly successful. Bronconnier’swildly overpriced, artistic pedestrian bridges will mean nothing if they are covered with crackheads and bums.
Calgary has tried the coddling approach with our homeless drug addicts and squeegee kids. That has simply led to downtown streets crawling with bums aggressively approaching working people at all hours of the day. This keeps law abiding citizens from nearing downtown whenever possible. That leads to criminal citizens happily filling the void. This has to end. This costs us socially and economically. How does it affect investment in our city when visitors see bums on every corner, open drug deals in progress and they are accosted by beggars in our downtown? It certainly does not encourage people to invest or relocate their businesses into our city.
Getting back to New York, when Rudy Giuliani became mayor, he expanded the “broken windows” method to the entire city as it had shown great success in New York Transit already. Zero tolerance was implemented along with a “compstat” program that helped police track crime and vandalism trends.
The outcome of the New York initiatives speaks volumes. In the last 12 years in New York violent crime dropped 75%. The murder rate in New York dropped to levels not seen since 1963 and now ranks with Boise Idaho for murders per-capita. In a city the size of New York this is astounding.
The “broken windows” method is no panacea and not every initiative can be directly applied in Calgary. It sure as hell would be a beginning however.
Perhaps Mayor Bronco could redirect some officers from setting up speed traps in our myriad of construction zones with no workers into having them crack down on the open drug dealing, vandalism and bums in our city center. Unlike Bronconnier’s other “initiatives” it would not cost tens of millions and I bet the results would become apparent within months.
We need to fight violent crimes on all levels. There is a great deal of power in the hands of Calgary’s city hall should they choose to actually exercise it. Blaming the federal and provincial governments is not an excuse.