Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Enjoy one free crime,' says tongue-in-cheek coupons

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EDMONTON -- Alberta's justice minister is demanding an apology from the Opposition Wildrose for distributing tongue-in-cheek coupons informing wannabe scofflaws their first crime is on the house.

"It's childish and I think that whoever did them needs to apologize," Jonathan Denis said Thursday. "It's a patent abuse of taxpayer dollars."

The full-colour coupons feature a faux bar code beside pictures of a dour-faced Premier Alison Redford and a smiling Denis.

"Enjoy One Free Crime!" shouts the headline. "Vandalize! Shoplift! This one's on us!

"The holder of this coupon is entitled to one free minor crime without prosecution!"

The cheekiness continues in the fine print at the bottom. Coupon holders are told they must present the paper when they are arrested to be valid. And it expires if Redford's government falls.

Wildrose critic Shayne Saskiw said the coupons are a light-hearted attempt to draw attention to a serious policy change in the Justice Department that was announced in last week's budget.

First-time petty crime offenders -- such as vandals and shoplifters -- are to be redirected to alternative measures programs as a way to rehabilitate them and free up court resources to pursue more serious offenders.

Saskiw has labelled it the Tory "hug-a-thug" program.

He said petty crime never feels petty to the person victimized. He said shop-owners and business people will pay the price if would-be thieves and vandals know there are no consequences for a first or second crime.

"Those people have to see some consequences. There has to be deterrence and that means punishment," said Saskiw.

"And with the justice minister sending the message that first- and second-time offenders get off scot-free, we don't think that's the right message to send."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 15, 2013 A16

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