THUNDER BAY – Editorial – The rash of crime in Thunder Bay is something that is of great concern to growing numbers of people in our community. The assault on Macs Convenience stores is continuing with a rash of robberies over the past five days. Those are not the only instances of crime in the city. Nightly there are actions by criminals across the city. Assaults, sexual assaults, property crime and drug and alcohol offences are far too regular an occurance.
The Thunder Bay Police Service has improved in the speed of its online reporting of incidents in our community in recent weeks. That is a good start, but it is barely scratching the surface. The Thunder Bay Police have some absolutely amazing front-line officers. Those officers are one of the reasons that our city’s finest have such a high case clearance rate. Take the recent Mac’s robbery on Edward Street, all three suspects were arrested in less than twenty-four hours.
Bluntly put, that success is a part of the training, and the direction set from the top. The Chief and Deputy Chief of Police set that direction.
In terms of crime prevention, the Thunder Bay Police Executive should, perhaps, be setting a goal on crime prevention ranking it as high as case clearing.
Engaging the community, which means shifting out of the para-military mindset of policing is going to be difficult for the Thunder Bay Police Service executive. It means taking risks. The bulk of that risk means engaging more with the people who they are serving. It is not a massive risk. It is one however that means a shift in public relations. It likely means a shift in personel, and most likely means bringing in new people and new ideas.
Over the coming months, Thunder Bay residents who are worried about crime are likely to be closely monitoring the situation. The issue however is far bigger than just the local police service.
There are federal and provincial issues at hand as well.
The federal approach to this problem can be seen in the new crimebill just passed by the Harper Conservatives. The goal is to boost funding for new prisons, and put the bad guys away. It is a multi-billion dollar approach that really does not tackle the root causes of crime.
The provincial approach for Thunder Bay is a new $400 million courthouse.
Maybe the next federal step should be to lobby for a new federal prison for Thunder Bay? That way the court house could process cases, the judges then sentence the guilty, and the new prison could house the inmates. If one were to only look at the economics, this approach would generate jobs in the community.
However it wouldn’t help solve the problem of crime. It wouldn’t likely prevent much crime either.
Real solutions are often more grassroots, and therefore often more effective.
One of the ways to have a safer and more secure community starts by having safer and more friendly neighbourhoods. When neighbours know each other, and are friends, they tend to watch out for each other. Providing facilities and activities for people to allow them to be active and positive members of society is also something that works.
Perhaps two areas of note in Thunder Bay might be found in the Evergreen, and the Windsor neighbourhoods.
In Evergreen, the community group headed by Linda Bruins has witnessed a walking club, sports nights and other positive activities in the neighbourhood. In the Windsor neighbourhood, there is Alpha Court, the Boys and Girls Club and over the past months a new Community Action Group under the stewardship of Steve Mantis has formed.
The Windsor / Picton Street / Blucher Street neighbourhood has been one which has struggled with crime over the past years. The younger children are now able to gather after school at the Boys and Girls Club. There is a teen zone at the Club which is starting to gain interest with some of the neighbourhood youth.
Alpha Court has recognized there is a need for their services in the neighbourhood. Additionally, program co-ordinator Jesse James has taken the added step of building a training facility located in the Boys and Girls Club, and is offering training in boxing. Such fitness training empowers young people with self confidence, and takes them to a new level in their lives.
Real solutions are not going to be instant efforts. They will require time to implement, and the major focus should be preventing crime from becoming an issue in the first place.
The Boys and Girls Club offers young people a fun, safe, and educational (as long as we don’t tell them) opportunity. The Alpha Court offers help to those struggling with issues of addition and mental health.
The goals of the Community Action Group is to engage the people in the neighbourhood.
The Evergreen neighbourhood is providing a number of means for people in the area to get to know each other. It is a common sense and grassroots approach to building a safer neighbourhood. In Evergreen, the City of Thunder Bay has stepped up to support the project. It is a move that City Administration, and City Council both deserve credit for having the foresight to realize that their help is going to reap real benefits in the neighbourhood.
Maybe the first steps to making Thunder Bay a better, and safer community should not start with governments, but more with residents in their neighbourhoods stepping up? The closer one is to the grassroots, chances are the more effective the solutions will be.
Does this help? In February crime in the Windsor neighbourhood was slower than the year before, so far in March the crime incidents are down yet again. Perhaps a coincidence, or perhaps a sign that when people start to care important and positive things come together as a result? In March there has been one incident related to an alcohol offense, and one arrest of a suspect in a theft. The theft was the Edward Street Mac’s Robbery. The contrast in the neighbourhood to previous periods is very encouranging.
Maybe the role for the City of Thunder Bay, the Thunder Bay Police, and other community agencies should be simply to work with the grassroots people in each interested neighbourhood to help guide and assist them?
There are many caring people in our city, not all of them are elected representatives, and not all of them work for the City of Thunder Bay. Caring about one’s community is something that is honestly a higher calling in many ways. It paves the way forward and makes sure our community continues to become one that is open, inviting and exciting to live in.
Chief Content Officer