Monday, 15 September 2008

Getting to School: A Public Safety Issue (Part 3 - Final). Will Winnipeg Step Up ?

Now, back to Winnipeg.

As I read the Chicago Sun-Times series I felt that there were parallels to our situation. I am NOT one of those crime alarmists, but it can't be denied that incidents of youth-driven homicides and the killings people simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, are rising. The most recent happening this weekend.

I don't have comparable stats at my fingertips regarding to make a direct comparison with Chicago's trends but I will make the case that the number is high and increasing.

Statscan's in depth look at the youth crime rate for 2006 found that "With 18 youths accused of homicide in 2006, Manitoba reported the highest rate of youth homicide in the country, more than double that of the next highest province. Manitoba and Alberta each reported that youths accounted for about 1 in 4 persons accused of homicide, the highest proportion among the provinces." (2007 basic stats are available but not as finely broken down).

This October 2007 article by Bruce Owen of the Winnipeg Free Press makes mention of the fact that in 2006, 12 youth were charged with a homicide in Manitoba and, at the time the article was written, the number for 2007 was already at 33 (for some murders that year, multiple youths were charged with the same murder so it's not 33 murders committed).

The interviews in the story point to the same issues as Chicago: kids becoming numb to violence; broken homes; feelings of despair; anger management issues; growing up without being taught social interaction skills; poverty; abuse.

So my question after reading the Sun-Times series is: when will Winnipeg band together to Stop the Killing ?

Within the public there is concern. We have vigils, calls for more cops, tougher laws in the hopes that they will protect us, (when much of what they accomplish is to sort out the mess after the fact). There will continue to be rumblings about needing fringe groups like the Guardian Angels, which are tut-tutted by the police and politicians.

The public is concerned but are not taking it to the next level.

Within the political ranks there is concern. Regret and shock is expressed. Concerns are understood and a few more police officers might get freed up at non-peak times for a bit. When do we reach the point, as with Chicago's Mayor Daley, that someone declares "we have an emergency ?" A few inches of water on normally dry land can result in a state of emergency in order to mobilize - with great haste - the financial and human resources from numerous government departments at all levels as well as those of NGO's and community organizations.

The politicians are concerned but are not taking it to the next level.

Within the aboriginal leadership there is concern. First Nations people are being incarcerated and killed in staggering numbers in Winnipeg's crime sprees. There are press conferences and demands for action. Anguish is directed at the same scapegoats and issues played upon for decades. Aboriginal versus non-aboriginal; government is letting people down and must do more; issues must be studied and inquiries are needed. Meanwhile, aboriginal kids continue to kill aboriginal kids.

Aboriginal leaders are concerned but are not taking it to the next level.

Within the media there is concern. Tens of thousands of column inches and hundreds of hours of video will be used to cover these killings. They will dig deep to ‘put a face on the story’ and show us who these people were. Editorials will package the stats and declare to readers what needs to be done by the police, the schools, the judges, the aboriginal leaders.

The media is concerned but are not taking it to the next level.

I am not trying to belittle any of the above groups. The fact is that one or two of them acting alone cannot make a dent in the situation.

At some point someone has to declare a state of emergency and trigger the mass mobilization of funding, resources and engage the hundreds of agencies, community groups, politicians, government departments, cultural leaders and media outlets. Who will call it ? When will we reach that point ?

We're all concerned but are not taking it to the next level.

Back to an excerpt from the Sun-Times editorial in 2008 when Chicago's state of emergency was declared and the Stop the Killing campaign was launched:

"We can't stop trying.

The problem is guns. No, it's not about guns.

The problem is bad parents. No, we can't make bad parents good.

The problem is drugs. No, we can't stop the drugs.

The problem is jobs. No, we can't bring back the good jobs.

The problem is our schools. No, we can't ask our schools to solve all the problems that flow from broken families and broken neighborhoods.
But we can't stop trying.

Daley is calling on all corners of the city -- the cops, the teachers, the preachers and the parents -- to see what a determined and compassionate city can do.

A city like Chicago."

And a city like Winnipeg should be able to do the same.


Anonymous said...

That was a really good post.

mrchristian said...

Thanks !