Three different girls. Three separate crimes. Three very similar cold and calloused responses.What happened to sugar and spice and everything nice?Last week, my colleague James Turner and I had the unfortunate task of bringing you several more stories of teen depravity from inside the walls of the Manitoba Youth Centre.After hearing the chilling facts of these cases, I can't help but wonder if they indicative of a much larger problem in society today.Have a read. And then discuss.*****CASE 1 - "He had to die sometime anyways."We've already talked a lot about Winnipeg's "laughing car thief", so I'll try and keep my comments to a minimum. But as many of you know, this 16-year-old girl made national headlines earlier this year when it was revealed that she mocked the death of a Winnipeg cab driver.The teen was one of seven occupants of a speeding, stolen SUV that smashed into and killed the innocent victim. In her interview with police, the girl smirked, twirled her hair and made comments like "It's no big deal" and "He had to die sometime anyway" to shocked investigators.Since then, we've watched the catch-and-release system in full affect as the teen got bail, was re-arrested, got sentenced, released, re-arrested, sentenced, released, re-arrested and sentenced once again last week.And released.CASE #2 - "They can go to Hell."Credit James Turner with the following tale of woe.A 12-year-old girl who pleaded guilty to setting a $200,000 fire that razed an East Kildonan home callously told investigators the home’s owners could “go to hell” when asked if she had any empathy for them.She also told correctional officers she would “do it again” if released.“These are chilling comments from a 12-year-old,” said Crown attorney Brent Davidson at the girl’s sentencing hearing.He said when questioned by police after her arrest on May 14, the girl showed no remorse or empathy and was sullen throughout the interview.In court, a social worker described the girl as “a risk to both herself and society.”She will remain locked up for at least another 12 days.Provincial court Judge Michel Chartier said he will consider a sentence that rehabilitates her and protects public safety.She’s considered such a high-risk to re-offend that after being granted bail a number of weeks ago, she remained locked up at the Manitoba Youth Centre because Child and Family Services had nowhere secure enough to place her.The home she pleaded guilty to torching was being built for a Russian family that had moved to Canada to escape the high cost of housing in that country.A social worker also raised serious concerns about the girl’s history of physically assaulting other kids and staff at school or CFS shelters. The worker also said there’s “no doubt” she’ll commit further crimes and set other fires.CASE #3 - "$%!@ the cops"While sitting at MYC awaiting another sentencing, I stumbled across the sad case of a 13-year-old girl who was seeking bail on a number of charges related to a string of ongoing car thefts and breaches of court orders.The most amazing piece of evidence came from Crown attorney Liz Pats, who told court how police conducted a curfew check on the girl following her most recent release on bail.Not surprisingly, police found the troubled teen had gone AWOL.However, likely nothing prepared them for what the girl's grandfather - her court-appointed custodian - had to say.When asked why the girl had left, grandpa explained that he'd tried to warn the girl that breaching her curfew was only going to land her in more trouble with the law."F--k the cops," the girl said before heading out into the night.She was arrested days later and brought back into custody, where she now remains after being denied bail last week.*****So here we have three girls - aged 12, 13 and 16 - snubbing their nose at the law, authority, even their own elders as they continue on their self-destructive paths in life.What to make of it?Is this a sign - as several callers to my "Crime and Punishment" radio show suggested Sunday - of the utter lack of respect being displayed these days by many young people?Is it proof, as others suggested, that our youth justice system is so weak that teen criminals simply treat it like the joke that it is?Is it a spinoff of pop culture, with salty-tongued bad girls being portrayed in some media as the best way to get respect?Or is it, as some justice officials have suggested, a new trend in society where young girls are trying more to be like the "bad boys" they love hanging around with? Pats, the prosecutor, says there is a rapid emergence in this city of a "girlfriend and groupie" culture, especially in the auto theft world.I'm not exactly sure where the blame should rest. But it's clear something has gone very very wrong.
Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.
Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.
Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.