I hate Winnipeg's image as crime capital of Canada. I deserve a safer place to live and so do my neighbours. Recently, I met two young men from Montreal who asked if it was safe to visit Winnipeg. Is this the image we want?
In North Point Douglas we have been able to make serious progress in crime prevention. Dealers, gang members pop up and with our partners, landlords, community safety staff and police officers of the community support unit, we knock them down again.
Bad guys walk in fear of the invisible 150 Volunteer Citizens on Watch, who turn them in for treading on our honest turf. Then I read the Manitoba NDP budget and see the minister of justice has conned the premier and cabinet into giving the jail section of his department a 10 per cent increase. Education and health care received about four per cent each.
Nothing for crime prevention. Nothing for energizing other communities to take on the gang bangers and crack dealers as we did. I spoke to one of my aboriginal elders who is in the forefront of cleaning up our area. With a sly grin he identified four new low-level drug dealers who had set up on Austin Street knowing they will be cleaned out within two weeks.
As a victim of serious crime, I think I can speak for other victims that we would rather prevent crimes than just catch the bad guys after they have knifed someone.
The NDP is allowing Justice Minister Andrew Swan to build an empire of an additional 400 jail cells and 400 more correctional officers. We ask for crime prevention. Swan and company would rather arrest the bad guys after they have hurt someone. Dumb.
Just when I was thinking my dear NDP is a total disaster, along come the provincial Progressive Conservatives. The province has a $1-billion deficit. What does Kelvin Goertzen, the Conservative shadow justice minister, decide we need? Why, a second helicopter. A few million dollars later we will have two gas-guzzling criminal chasers hovering above the city. The Conservatives seem to be even dumber than Andrew Swan.
I like the helicopter. It flies over our house daily. It helped catch several fleeing criminals. The issue isn't whether one more helicopter will help catch criminals. Of course it will. Building more jails will keep 500 more criminals away from the community they have harmed for about a year each. Then they get out.
Along with helicopter one, building jails, and buying helicopter two, we will still have the highest crime rate in Canada. Doing more of what has failed will not bring positive results.
As our two dominant political parties joust to see who can be the dumbest on crime, simple crime-prevention methods are ignored. No one pays attention to the success in North Point Douglas because it's just a bunch of volunteers and doesn't cost the taxpayer anything. Education and health care are being starved, our infrastructure is falling apart, our deficit keeps getting bigger, but our minister of justice, Mr. Dumb, will build more expensive jails. Mr. Dumber, Progressive Conservative critic, will try to buy more helicopters.
One day, a minister of justice will realize 95 per cent of inner-city people hate crime and, given a chance, will help close down the crack houses, party houses and gang houses that breed crime. We know where they are. Too bad Dumb and Dumber won't listen.
Sel Burrows was executive assistant to NDP premier Ed Schreyer and a senior provincial corrections official under Tory premier Sterling Lyon.