Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mayoralty Candidates on Crime

Crime is considered a top concern of all Canadians, even Torontonians despite the fact that we live in the safest city in Canada (which is really interesting, given that we're also the biggest, and one would think the bigger the city, the greater the per capita crime rate and the greater the violence).

Mayor David Miller distinguished himself in the summer of the gun by being AWOL. Some would say he set the stage for that summer by engineering the ouster of Chief Julian Fantino, others that he had nothing to do with that, and one did not lead to the other anyway. But I know in the last election, the NDP candidate was just about spitting when she spoke of Chief Fantino and how they were going to get rid of him. They did.

While young men shot bullets in the night and during the day, both the new Chief of Police Bill Blair and the Mayor were nowhere to be seen. The city felt that all hell had broken loose and was confused as to why it was happening, scared about how long it would last, questioning if this constant gunfire would become permanent, and lost as to what to do. The Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani after 9/11 demonstrated the power of leadership. His city suffered a crisis much much greater than ours, yet our city needed that kind of leadership just as badly. And Miller was nowhere to be found or heard.

Finally he crawled out of hiding and mouthed a few platitudes. It was not enough. It was too late. The fallout of fear continues to this day.

The summer of 2005 was Miller's to demonstrate leadership, leadership that is quick to respond to a crisis, leadership that soothes, inspires, comforts, settles, eliminates fear, strengthens our hearts, and toughens our resolve to resist the violence and the fear. Instead Miller wowed us with wimpy words that did nothing to still our fear. Chief Blair was not much better.

And so do we really care what he has to say about crime? I don't. I've seen nothing in the last year to change my mind that when it comes to crime and leadership, Miller is a dud.

As for Jane Pitfield, she has a 14-point plan to combat crime. It starts with addressing the crucibles of crime across the city, not just in a few chosen areas: poor housing, poor education, lack of outlets for physical needs and sports, lack of good mentors, poor job prospects, people keeping to themselves and not looking out for their neighbours. She then addresses the need for crime-fighting tools: better and more security cameras, panhandling laws, plans for released convicts, maintaining adequate policing levels, improving services for the mentally ill.

The biggest endorsement of her leadership skills when it comes to reducing crime is the vocal support of the Pastors who took up the baton during the summer of the gun when Miller was hiding in his office. They're the ones who are right in the middle of where gangs are born, thrive, and fight. They're the ones in the best position to know who is most credible. They pick Pitfield.

2 comments:

Tor Poli said...

Great piece, Pario

James Bow said...

"(which is really interesting, given that we're also the biggest, and one would think the bigger the city, the greater the per capita crime rate and the greater the violence)."

Why would one think that? It DOES follow that, the bigger the city, the greater the number of crimes, but the interesting fact is that there is no correlation between population size and per-capita crime rates. New York used to have a problem with crime, but since the early 1990s, its murder rate and violent crime rates have slid, to a level comparable to Boise, Idaho.

And New York's per capita crime rate is still higher than that of Toronto. Toronto's rate is quite low -- lower than Calgary and Edmonton. The correlation just isn't there; though frustratingly too many people make this mistake, which makes them vulnerable to politicians that try to scare their votes out of them, with "law and order" strategies.

I myself have never felt unsafe on the streets of Toronto, even in this day and age. It does help that I'm a six foot tall male weighing 240 pounds, but I think there's something about the design of Toronto -- either choices it made in the sixties and the seventies or a happy accident, that allowed it to avoid the mass degredation that afflicted numerous American cities during the period.