Thursday, January 05, 2006

Standing up to Violence, Politician Style

When the public howls, the politicians hop up to the microphone. Premier Dalton McGuinty takes charge by immediately earmarking $5 million to, among other things, hire new police officers. Didn't he make this promise already? Were we under the mistaken impression that his previous promise on hiring 1,000 new officers, was supposed to happen in a year, not in 2 or 3? Unfortunately, it took the death of a young girl to make this promise a reality, instead of just remaining so much hot air to take McGuinty through the next election.

Hiring 31 new prosecutors (better check the "best done by" date on that) and opening 3 new courts for major crimes are good new promises. It isn't enough to arrest the criminals, the courts have to be able to deal with them appropriately in a timely manner.

One thing confuses me about his big announcement: did it come out of the trilevel government meeting held Wednesday or is this just McGuinty's own bailiwick? If the latter, what did that meeting accomplish?

Probably knowing that McGuinty was going to make an announcement, Stephen Harper made an earlier one at the Eaton Centre to show that he's got the situation in hand, that he's the one best able to work out and implement a solution. His is a national approach though, reflecting the fact that despite the record number of gunshot deaths in Toronto, this city still has the lower per capita violent crime rate in the country, by far. Still, it will help Toronto just as much as it will help Winnipeg or Montreal. And unlike our usual assumptions about Conservative Party platform on violent crime -- all about jail and bail -- this one includes $50 million, or $10 million per year, for crime prevention and assisting youth at risk. He also addresses a problem that only the media have sort of talked about: customs.

Torontonians know banning handguns isn't the answer, as handguns have been severely restricted for decades and the guns used in these crimes are mostly illegal. But the Liberals from Martin to Miller still talk about banning handguns and ignore the gaping problem at customs. Harper will "crack down on firearms smuggling" and give customs the support and equipment they need to effectively patrol our border with the US. Hopefully this will include updating their computer systems so that all the criminals the police are looking for and have on file will show up on the custom agents' computers too.

My biggest disappointment with all this gabbing, particularly the trilevel meeting, is that none of it included the Toronto Youth Cabinet or community groups from the areas most affected or the GTA Faith Alliance. It was politicians, police, and bureaucrats. Hello, isn't the lack of communication (and trust) between the police and the community a huge reason in many of these crimes going unsolved? How will they build trust and avenues of communication if the powers-that-be don't even involve these groups in meetings like these? Foot patrols cannot do all the communication work.

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Note: For other postings on gun crime, see Yonge-Dundas Shootings and Toronto Pastors Bring Light.

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