Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Judy Wasylycia-Leis's Crime Prevention Plan Part One

Community volunteers and city workers would help the Winnipeg Police Service prevent crime if Judy Wasylycia-Leis is elected mayor this fall.
The former NDP MP for Winnipeg North, who's vying to unseat Sam Katz this fall, pledged Monday to create two new crime-fighting programs within six days of being elected mayor.
The first program, PowerLine, is based on a three-year-old North Point Douglas effort that has reduced the crack cocaine trade and gang presence in the inner-city neighbourhood.
Wasylycia-Leis would like to expand the program to other Winnipeg neighbourhoods by appointing volunteer co-ordinators who would field calls about crime and vandalism and then co-ordinate a response with police and Manitoba Justice officials.
"The point of the program is the less bureaucratic it is, the more success it'll have," she told reporters outside Norquay Community Centre in Point Douglas, flanked by community activist Sel Burrows. "One size does not fit all. We're not going to find a Sel Burrows in every community."
Volunteer co-ordinators would not be subject to police background checks, she said. Burrows dismissed concerns that could enable organized crime to infiltrate the program.
"One of the things we've noticed is the reverse has happened. We have infiltrated organized crime," he said, suggesting criminals are not intelligent.
The second proposed program, City Watch, would see members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 -- the city's largest union -- aid police by reporting crimes.
CUPE members are willing to do this, provided they receive proper training, said local president Mike Davidson, who also stood alongside Wasylycia-Leis. Similar programs are in place in six British Columbia municipalities, she said.
Wasylycia-Leis also said the Winnipeg Police Association supports the initiative. WPA vice-president Marc Pellerin declined to comment.
The cost of both PowerLine and City Watch would be minimal, said Wasylycia-Leis, though she has yet to cost them out precisely. She claimed Mayor Sam Katz has done little to prevent crime during six years in office.
"Like so many Winnipeggers, I am sick and tired of hearing we are the No. 1 violent-crime capital of Canada," she said.
Katz, however, said he launched a program similar to City Watch in 2004, when 70 waste-management workers were recruited to monitor crime. Winnipeg Transit employees have also been trained to report crime, he said.
"The key thing is, we would hope that what would prevail is common sense, in that all employees and all citizens would report crimes when they see them," Katz said.
The mayor repeated his assertion Wasylycia-Leis stymied federal Conservative efforts to bolster justice legislation while in Ottawa -- something the former MP has denied -- and said he has been instrumental in hiring 155 more police officers, creating a swat team, Operation Clean Sweep, CrimeStat and getting a police a helicopter off the ground.
"Do you really believe Wasylycia-Leis will be tougher on crime than I am?" he asked.
But Wasylycia-Leis said Winnipeg needs even more police officers.

WINNIPEG--Mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis has pledged to prevent crime in Winnipeg by enlisting city workers and neighbourhood volunteers.
The former NDP MP for Winnipeg North, who's vying to unseat Sam Katz this fall, told reporters this morning she would launch two new crime-fighting programs within days of being elected mayor.
The first, PowerLine, would see one volunteer in each Winnipeg neighbourhood field calls about crime and vandalism and then co-ordinate with police and Manitoba Justice officials.
The second, City Watch, would see city workers aid police by reporting crimes.
Standing in a North Point Douglas Park, flanked by community activist Sel Burrows and Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 president Mike Davidson, Wasylycia-Leis said both programs would deter crime in Winnipeg.
Davidson said CUPE members would be willing to help, but need special training to aid police.
Burrows said neighbourhood volunteers can take on gangs with the help of united communities.
Wasylycia-Leis said the cost of both programs would be minimal, but had not costed them out precisely.
The volunteer co-ordinators would not be subject to police background checks, she said. She dismissed concerns that PowerLine could be infiltrated by organized crime.
Wasylycia-Leis also said Winnipeg needs more police officers but would not say whether she would raise property taxes to pay for additional salaries.

Winnipeg mayoralty hopeful Judy Wasylycia-Leis announced two anti-crime measures Monday that she believes will curb perceptions the city is a hotbed for criminals.
In what is the former NDP MP's first substantive policy announcement since she launched her campaign earlier this summer, Wasylycia-Leis said the city has a culture of crime that must be broken.
"Like so many Winnipeggers I am sick and tired of being told how we are the number one violent crime capital of Canada," Wasylycia-Leis said. "We can start to turn around this idea of a crime culture in Winnipeg."
Wasylycia-Leis proposed two specific programs during the morning announcement that she said would deter crime and increase neighbourhood safety.
The first is the creation of an initiative for city employees to start reporting more crimes when they see them.
'Do you really believe that Ms. Wasylycia-Leis would be tougher on crime than yours truly?'—Mayor Sam Katz
The second would be the establishing of a citywide anonymous tip line for residents to report crime to police.
She also criticized her main opponent, incumbent Mayor Sam Katz, saying he hasn't done enough to stamp out crime.
"The current administration at City Hall hasn't come forward with a detailed crime-prevention strategy after six full years in office, and that needs to change," she said in a statement.
Katz responded by detailing a number of his own programs to combat crime, including the Winnipeg police Street Crime unit, and the soon-to-be-airborne police helicopter.
"Do you really believe that Ms. Wasylycia-Leis would be tougher on crime than yours truly?," he asked.
Winnipeggers go to the polls on Oct. 27.

Mayor Sam Katz is promising to hire another 58 police officers in an effort to end the city's reputation as one of the most crime-plagued centres in Canada. He acknowledged that police alone cannot make a community safer, but the emphasis in his first campaign announcement was clearly about boosting police numbers to make the city safer.
This stands in stark contrast to his main rival, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who has promised to take steps to empower community groups to defend their neighbourhoods. Ms. Wasylycia-Leis is hoping that the success experienced in Point Douglas, which has seen a drop in crime and an increase in comfort levels, can be replicated elsewhere.
Her overall platform on crime, however, was vague and she did not address the question of police numbers. The mayor, on the other hand, seems to be putting too much confidence in the ability of police forces to solve complex problems.
With nearly 1,400 officers, the city already is one of the most policed cities in Canada -- our exact ranking is a source of endless debate -- but the mayor thinks we still don't have enough.
Everyone agrees that police are vital in deterring crime and arresting criminals -- otherwise we wouldn't need them -- but what is the right number? Would another 5,000 officers make the city five times safer, or is there a law of diminishing returns with respect to law enforcement?
A few years ago, the mayor actually promised to answer the question. He was going to hold the police service accountable to ensure taxpayers were getting value for their money and that "crime-reduction targets are being met."
Unfortunately, as the mayor has since learned, it's not that easy. Sometimes crime rises or falls for reasons that have little to do with the ratio of police to citizens.
Even so-called objective criteria for measuring performance aren't necessarily neutral. The Winnipeg Police Service, for example, has one of the lowest clearance rates in Canada. Our statistics for clearing crimes, or making arrests, are poorer than both Regina and Saskatoon, high crime cities with fewer officers per capita than Winnipeg.
But maybe Winnipeg is different. Violent street crime and mayhem, for example -- the kind we see a lot of in the city -- can result in serious offences that are difficult to clear because there are endless possible suspects, or none at all.
The argument could be made that Winnipeg needs more police officers because of our large inner city, high rates of poverty and sprawling suburbs, combined with priorities such as downtown renewal and unique social issues, such as homelessness, public drunkenness and so on.
Unfortunately, Mr. Katz offered no insight as to why he wants to hire 58 new officers, as opposed to 28 or 68, at a cost of $4 million, which sounds a little on the light side, given that a rule of thumb is that it costs $100,000 for every new police officer, once benefits, equipment and overtime are factored. Nor did he promise accountability and benchmarks for determining success.
As the campaign moves ahead, both candidates need to expand on their policies for dealing with crime, and on how they would measure success. A serious discussion, as opposed to sloganeering, might help identify where the efforts should be made.

Another question is how is he going to pay for this? He can promise the world but it means nothing if he can't pay for it.

More police and tougher laws are reactionary responses to crime. What we need, is more proactive and preventative approaches and strategies. Crime prevention and intervention are far more successful and more cost effective ways of dealing with crime. Police officers respond to crime, not prevent it. If more police officers are hired, they need to be more involved in community policing and crime prevention initiatives.  We need more community recreation programs for youth, such as after school programs and Lighthouses and also more parenting, employment, counselling and education programs. Punishment does not prevent or reduce crime. Crime prevention is always the most effective and can take many forms, including better lighting on streets, windows and patios facing the streets, block parents, neighbourhood watch, community programs, youth training and opportunities, addictions resources, etc. We need to provide alternative options to people who might otherwise be influenced into a lifestyle of crime. Prisons are the schools of crime. They harden criminals as each individual is surrounded by antisocial criminal peers. Inmates come to adopt the subscribe to the inmate subculture. Judy is SMART, not TOUGH on crime. She acknowledges the research.  

The justice system isn't going to be fixed anytime soon so if we want to make improvements we need to look at ways to do it within the existing system. If so much of our officers' time is being taken up due to flaws in the system that they can't be out on the street, then you don't have enough people on the streets with current staffing levels. That's either fixed by changing the system, or hiring more people. It's not realistic to believe we can change the justice system quickly enough to get tangable results anytime soon. Would be nice, but from a practical perspective it's not going to happen for a very long time. So we either do what we can within the system to try and improve things, or we just pass the buck, blame the system, and wait for it to be fixed, which may never happen. In concept I agree with what you're saying, but I don't see it as a practical solution. Maybe a long-term goal but not something we can bank on.

Not sure how effective Judy's ideas will be here. They imply a trend to more community involvement, which I think is important. On their own they probably won't do much, if anything, so it depends on what other programs go along with them. 

We don't need more cops. We've tried that and things have gotten worse. We need to keep kids out of trouble, especially gang-related trouble, in the first place. We need communities to pull together. We need to work on solving the poverty problem. We need to reform our drug laws to take the profitability out of selling drugs. We need better education programs...not just traditional job training, but training in the arts and volunteerism.

Katz has no real thoughts on any of this. Instead he has opted for a meaningless sound bite. He's a poor mayor, a poor leader, and so out of touch with the reality of living in this city that it's frightening. 

1 comment:

  1. hey,
    I just wanted to say that the US is not any better when it comes to the prison policies. experimenting with bad policies has made the prison system a chaos and where the individuals live in miserable conditions.
    Its sad that over 47 million Americans have been incarcerated ones in their life and over 13 million Americans have a felony record. the ideology of "Get TOUGH" and "War on drugs" have messed up this nation. I think we have so many other solutions to these problems if we only are willing to see at the things in more civilized way.
    BTW i love ur blog