(This column was published in the
North Shore News
on Jan. 8, 2003)
So the holidays are over
How were they for you? Good, I hope. Yeah, me too. Well, except for my car being broken into and a bunch of Christmas presents stolen.
So, between my wife and I, that makes four in a year. And we live in a nice neighbourhood, we have nice friends who live in nice neighbourhoods, and, both of us work on the North Shore. We don't go over town on a daily basis. Yet, we have been the victims of crime four times in the past year.
Are we unusual in that? I really don't know. What I do know is crime is running rampant. And the system, such as it is, is allowing it to happen almost unimpeded.
I was giving a speech a while back to a group of nice people in West Vancouver. At one point, I asked the assembled, how many of them knew someone who had been the victim of crime in the previous year. Everyone in the room raised their hand. Everyone.
I then asked how many had themselves been the victim of crime over the same period. About half of the people in that room raised their hand.
Admittedly, that's not scientific, but it is telling.
Think back to the way things were 15 or 20 years ago. How many people did you know who had been crime victims in the average year? Chances are the answer is very few, if any.
Inevitably, when I write about a particular individual, a career criminal who continually gets flung through the revolving door that is our justice system, people say to me: "I had no idea, "or "that's incredible, people just don't know" or something similar professing a naiveté about how uninspiring the criminal justice system really is.
I'll try and put this into some perspective.
Now, I have to keep this somewhat generic lest I affect any pending court cases. There is a neighbourhood in North Vancouver that has, much to its chagrin, a youthful male resident who has broken into nearly every single house in the area. He has stolen everything that isn't nailed down and some things that were.
The neighbours have banded together to seek some help about their plight from the police. The problem is that the police keep doing their job in arresting the individual and placing him before the courts, but that's where the revolving door factors in.
The young man, now about 20 years old, is a junkie. He is a thief and he cares not one whit about what society expects from him because he will not deliver.
He seems to feel any arrest or small amount of time in jail is merely the cost of doing business - the business of stealing from his neighbours and using the proceeds to get stoned. For a while North Vancouver Mountie Cpl. Mike Lidstone looked like he was getting through to him.
Alas, that apparently has not worked.
As we enter a new year bright with hope of a burgeoning economy and fraught with the danger of a world on the brink of war, the year ahead will be more of the same for this young waste of a life. And it will continue the year after that. And the year after that.
And on and on it will go until he is killed at the hands of a rival or by the needle in his own hand. You know what else; he probably wouldn't cross the street for a so-called "safe injection" site.
Some day, in some way, the system will be forced to do something with this individual. Perhaps he'll kill a homeowner who innocently disturbs him in the process of ransacking a house. Perhaps the homeowner will get the upper hand and turn that table.
Whatever the future holds, I can guarantee one thing, it holds nothing but tragedy for this person in one way or another.
And that's why the system is failing and failing miserably. So, Happy New Year and let's hope that by this time next year someone might convince the paralytic politicians in Ottawa to work on the problem where it does some good. Imagine what the billion dollars wasted on the long-barrel gun registry might have done if applied to front line policing and
effective actions like real drug treatment centres for junkies trying to escape.
After all, it's only a billion dollars.