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Addressing violent crime that is too close to home


When sidewalks my family uses regularly are covered with trails of blood, you might expect me to have something to say. Certainly at least one of my neighbours did.

The incident that I am referring to was a so-called “home invasion” on Borden Ave. N. (just off King E.) that ended in a violent confrontation with some of those involved fleeing through the surrounding neighbourhood. I say so-called because even the initial media reports made it clear that this was not a random incident. The house was known to police and neighbours reported that there were people coming and going for short visits at all hours of the day. It quickly became that this incident was not random and could not accurately be described as a home invasion.

Here is some of the media coverage:

But this violent incident that grabbed headlines happened far too close to home. For me this was particularly true coming so soon after a murder at the Circus Room on King near Stirling (once THE hottest and hippest place in Kitchener).

Media coverage of the Circus Room murder:

My thoughts

At first, I wasn’t sure what to say. Although concerned by the proximity, I took comfort in knowing that neither incident was random and the chance of myself or my family being affected were virtually non-existent.

I also knew that jumping up and down and calling for more police, more patrols or harsher jail sentences were not the answer. They’d just be an easy, knee-jerk reaction that buys into the myths spread as gospel by the tough on crime types. Even Texas, which has never been accused of being soft on crime, buys the hype anymore as described in this New York Times article.

What I want is a smart on crime investment in root causes such as advocated by the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. Specifically, I would like to the following actions.

The federal government

I with the Harper government would set aside its tough on crime agenda that will see more people going to jail and staying there longer. But barring a miracle, that is not going to happen so instead I would like to see more federal money allocated to community-based and grassroots crime prevention efforts. Ideally, we would see a percentage of the new spending on building jails and incarcerating more people dedicated to this purpose. An important criteria is that this money be available with minimal bureaucracy so that the emphasis is upon getting results rather than having a nice set of paperwork.

Follow up post related to federal justice system

The provincial government

I would like to see the next provincial government make establishing an Ontario Crime Prevention Strategy a priority with a pragmatic plan for implementing it and sufficient funds to make a difference.

Waterloo Region

I have a thoughts on a local response to addressing the root causes of crime too but I think it deserves to have a post of its own.

Will these responses prevent the types of violence that have been too close to King and Ottawa? Maybe not. But I believe over time, lower the incidence of violent crimes, more people will be living positive lives and many more will feel safer than they do today.

Follow up post

Sensational crime didn’t need to be sensationalized

Note:

I’m concerned about the negative impression that you could have about east downtown Kitchener based on this and several other recent posts. Rest assured, there are many people living here quite happily. There have also been several positive developments that I plan to highlight in a future post.

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2 comments on “Addressing violent crime that is too close to home

  1. Good for you James! Yes it is much harder to keep a cool head when things happen near to us but that is when it is vitally important. Of course none of the recommendations you mention are new. Sadly they have been mentioned before and fallen mostly on deaf ears. In 1993 the Horner Commission recommended that all federal correction and enforcement spending should reserve 5% for prevention. Experts now recommend to match dollar for dollar in new spending at the tertiary end of prevention with primary prevention dollars. And of course, provincially we do have the poverty reduction strategy which goes a long way toward prevention crime and victimization. We also have the roots of youth violence report (although it is unclear where that is at?). What we don’t have in Ontario is an integrated approach to these efforts such as the Alberta government now has (http://justice.alberta.ca/programs_services/safe/what-doing/Documents/JAG_CrimePreventionFramework.pdf). Those of us who work in municipal crime prevention across the province remain hopeful that Ontario too will come on board with a comprehensive and coordinated crime prevention approach. Locally – and I can speak here of many municipalities across the country – prevention is very much on the radar. Resources are tight but the dialogue is encouraging. Imagine a day when we can talk about public safety in a way that is SMART. When we don’t over rely and overburden enforcement and corrections with the task but rather spread the responsibility to everyone. When public safety is as synonymous with healthy neighbourhoods as health is now understood in terms of social determinants. I think that we will begin to see a change. will it prevent all crimes? Not likely! But it will certainly begin to chart a better course than we have historically seen across generations and with governments of all stripes.

    • Thanks for sharing this information Chris! Your wealth of knowledge about crime prevention is a great asset to Waterloo Region and to all the other communities across Canada that you assist in various ways.

      Hopefully, we are moving in the right direction. I hope that public safety will increasingly be seen as a critical element in building and maintaining healthy neighbourhoods.

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