Solving the Crime Problem Should be Top Priority

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Dryden Drug Bust November 2010THUNDER BAY – The frontlines of fighting crime in Thunder Bay are manned by the officers of the Thunder Bay Police Service. Over the past several months observing how the police in our community are faced with dealing with crime, it is apparent that we have some amazing men and women in our Police Service working for us.

Just from my experiences with the frontline officers over the past years, it is impressive to witness the level of professionalism.

The incidents range from a traffic officer who in dealing with a situation where a young lady was struck by a motor vehicle took the extra care, and professionalism to get things right.

The officers who have to deal with the individuals in our community who can not handle alcohol or drugs demand a great deal of tolerance for the behaviour they encounter each shift.

On Wednesday evening, two officers were dispatched to a northward location to pick up a very intoxicated individual. The person’s state of intoxication made understanding instructions from the officers was impossible for him to do. Apparently the individual was known to police as a repeat offender, they were able to deal with him in a professional manner, taking him into custody and preventing the person from both the elements and from potential harm from others.

As well on Wednesday night, officers were dispatched to a couple fighting on the street. Again, an apparently intoxicated couple were taken into custody. The individuals were engaged in a dispute that escalated from words to fists. Witnesses reported to NetNewsledger.com that the officers again acted with the utmost in professionalism.

It is time however that our dedicated officers receive added reinforcements.

We are witnessing the impact across the region of alcohol and drug abuse and the ramifications of those problems on young people.

Problems with drug and alcohol abuse in our community are ones which breeds yet more issues if not dealt with. Evidence of the problems can be seen in some of the Northern communities, where prescription drugs, like Oxycotin have become a major problem.

It will be critical for the City of Thunder Bay, and our police service, along with the OPP, NAPS and NAN to partner with each other to start solving problems in the North before they migrate to Thunder Bay.

The problems in Thunder Bay are ones that has parents of young children in our city very concerned. One mother relayed to NetNewsledger.com that earlier this week, her grandmother, visiting her home found a syringe in the driveway. That mother is now scared to let her youngsters play in the yard for fear of what else they might find.

Another mother relayed, “Drugs and Alcohol go together apparently really well in this town as I am sure we all can see … that is completely ridiculous … I am so sick of this city being like this … I miss the Thunder Bay that wasn’t known as the Mini Detroit”.

Right now discussions are underway with residents in several neighbourhoods who are not willing to wait for either the Police Chief or the Crime Prevention Council to act. There are citizen-based efforts underway to take back neighbourhoods and make our community a safer place to live.

Those efforts are not Guardian Angel chapters, and they are not vigilante groups, but rather neighbours willing to watch out for each other, and to gather information that can be relayed to the police. Some of this is likely to take some real courage.

Part of the desire for action has stemmed from perceived inaction by Police Chief Herman, and his Executive by many people in our community. For some, the comments by police officials on a video of a young teen being assaulted were a ‘final straw’.

The problem has been coming for a while, and sometimes the biggest impetus for change can come from a single incident.

The issues of drug and alcohol abuse in Thunder Bay are continuing to be such major issue. Robberies at drug stores in the city point out the depth that some people will go to try to acquire drugs.  With substance abuse, the real issue is one of not having sufficient facilities in our community to treat those who may need treatment. Without sufficient treatment facilities, the problem can not go away.

Although there are several positive steps being taken, specifically the Crime Prevention Commission, it is very likely that unless residents in the city see substantive action the call for greater change is going to grow far louder.

That direction must come from City Council. Mayor Hobbs is willing to lead in this effort, but his is but one voice on the Council. It is going to take other Councillors stepping up and joining the fight full force to make our city safer.

A prediction, if members of the current City Council do not put the issue of community safer higher in their priority rankings, by year three of this Council’s mandate there will likely be the formation of a slate of candidates willing to tackle the problem head on. From talking with some in our community those discussions have already started.

If the problem has not seen significant reductions, chances are that many sitting around the current Council Chamber will be retired by voters who are seeking a safer community.

Those around the Council Chambers might heed that ages old adage, “A word to the wise should suffice”.

James Murray