Crime can be stopped: professor

Says methods used to curb auto theft work


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The man who wrote the book on criminology is convinced the weekend crime wave -- two homicides, two shootings, and a stabbing -- is a pattern that will happen again.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/10/2011 (4228 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The man who wrote the book on criminology is convinced the weekend crime wave — two homicides, two shootings, and a stabbing — is a pattern that will happen again.

But it could be stopped, said Prof. Rick Linden, a long-time University of Manitoba criminologist and co-chairman of the successful Manitoba Auto Theft Task Force. Linden was appointed this summer to head the new civilian commission to oversee how police forces are governed. He is also the author of Canada’s best-selling criminology text.

In the wake of the violent weekend, Linden said the province’s success with the auto theft task force proves crime can be curbed, given the political will and the resources to get the job done.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press Police tape surrounds the crime scene at Arthur Street and McDermot Avenue Saturday.

The reality, however, is discouraging.

“We live in a city that has a high crime rate, a city that has always had one of the top homicide rates in the country, and we have no reasonable expectation that will change, if we keep doing the same thing over and over again,” Linden said.

The problem is the city doesn’t have a master crime plan in place to tackle the myriad social factors that contribute to crime and to put into place a series of deterrents to curb it.

“Until someone is put in charge of crime control, with a budget, staff and a plan, we’ll continue to have crimes like this,” he said.

The city proved with the Auto Theft Task Force that it can beat crime when it focuses on a master plan, Linden said.

Auto theft dropped 83 per cent and overall crime rates dropped with the work of the task force, a multi-pronged initiative that combined extra police, probation and crown attorneys, along with social services for families, entire communities and schools. Authorities kept high-risk offenders under surveillance and anti-theft devices were installed in high-risk vehicles.

It worked, and something similar would work, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, with violence, too, Linden said.

“There’s a lot of talented people out there with a lot of great ideas but they need the resources… and if they are given the resources, they can go out and make a difference in people’s lives.”

“I can tell you that we’ve been looking at how we can apply the Winnipeg Auto Theft Suppression Strategy (WATSS) model to other areas,” a spokesman for Attorney General Andrew Swan said. “So far we’ve extended the model to gang members in the Gang Response And Suppression Plan (GRASP). We’re open to applying it in other areas.”

Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press archives University of Manitoba criminologist Rick Linden (right) watches as Attorney General Gord Mackintosh shows an immobilizer anti-theft device in April 2003.

City Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) said the crime wave this weekend spilled over into his constituency.

The city must come up with a new plan, he said.

“Something is desperately wrong. All these shootings and stabbings, we’ve got to have an analysis to see why they’re occurring. Obviously we’re not doing enough and we’ve got to do something,” Smith said.

Since many of the victims are young, the province’s child and family services agencies should also be consulted, Smith said.

It’s possible some suspects and some victims may be kids who have been in care or who have come to the attention of child welfare authorities, Smith said.

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