Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
We've heard plenty of cries lately about youth car thieves - yet nary a word, it seems, about a far greater crisis within the criminal justice system.I'm talking about kids who are stealing lives, not property.The stats are sobering and shocking, as my colleague Bruce Owen and I reported Wednesday in the Free Press. (Click HERE
for full story and stats)14 Manitoba youths have already been charged with murder or manslaughter in the first six months of 2007.
That already exceeds the 12 we saw in 2006.And the 7 in 2005.
I've never been one to put much stock in homicide rates, as they tend to go up and down based on a variety of circumstances. Much of it has to do with luck and the miracles of modern medicine which can make all the difference between living and dying on the mean streets.However, I find the youth numbers extremely alarming. And not just the stats, but the details of the crimes they are being charged with.Killing seems to be almost a thrill sport these days for some groups of youths. Consider the following cases.*
Seven teens have been charged with second-degree murder for a brutal, mob-style attack that left a 22-year-old man dead in pool of his own blood in St. Theresa Point last month.*
In May, two teen girls, aged 13 and 15, were accused of participating in the beating death of a 22-year-old Pauingassi First Nation woman.*
On Valentine’s Day, a 16-year-old boy and three young adults were charged with murder after an 18-year-old man was killed and a 15-year-old critically injured during a day-long gang fight in Garden Hill.*
On New Year’s Eve, three teens aged 13 to 16 along two adults were charged with beating a man to death on the Chemawawin Cree Nation.These kinds of pack attacks aren't just happening on remote reserves, either:*
Last October, three girls and a boy, aged 12 to 15, were accused of swarming 34-year-old Audrey Cooper and brutally beating her to death in Winnipeg's West End.Friends of the arrested youths told the Free Press they weren’t surprised by the level of violence police say occurred. Calling themselves the “Westsiders”, a group of about 60 youths wander the West End at night, “juicing up” on alcohol and picking fights with whoever happens to cross their path. On the night of Oct. 21 it was Cooper who crossed their path. She was simply walking home after picking up some groceries.*
The same sorry circumstances were involved the June 2006 group beating death of 45-year-old Peter Debungee, who was attacked at random outside the downtown Maryland Hotel just moments after buying beer.A 16-year-old boy - who has since pleaded guilty and got 18 months of jail - and several others had been causing trouble in the area all day, including picking fights with strangers.Debungee died of massive head injuries after he was beaten unconscious and dragged by a mob on to McGee Street, where his head was placed on a curb and repeatedly stomped on.Just because they could, I guess.Why aren't we hearing more about this? Why aren't members of the public and politicians crying out for new laws, more enforcement, greater responsibilities for potential victims?I'm not trying to downplay car theft. It is a massive problem, and the truth is most members of the public are more likely to have their vehicle swiped from their driveway then to be curb-stomped by a pack of blood-thirsty teens.
Yet this disregard for human life that we are seeing and the fact 26 youths have been charged with taking a life in the past 18 months doesn't exactly bode well for the future, does it?So what can be done? How do we prevent the vicious circle from continuing, from a whole new generation of killers being raised in our cities and communities?Your suggestions are welcome. Your interest - and concern - should be mandatory.