Solving the Root Causes of Crime
THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – Thunder Bay has a crime problem. With the eighth homicide of the year now recorded, it is very likely that our city will, once again hold the dubious honour as “Murder Capital of Canada”.
That is a title no community wants. It has an impact on civic pride in our city, and it has an overall impact on economic development.
Thunder Bay has put the building blocks in place to start turning this situation around. There have been lots of steps taken, and there have been studies, reports, and meetings held.
In fact there was a meeting being held earlier this week with the Mayor, Shelter House, Thunder Bay Police, and other stakeholders when the word came down that our community had suffered another homicide.
The solutions to the issue of crime and of homicide require that we get to the root of the problems. If you talk to police officers on the streets, one of the issues they deal with on a far too regular basis is that of intoxicated individuals.
Dealing with Alcohol and Drug Issues
Alcoholism and addiction are serious concerns. They are not the direct cause of all the crime, but they are a serious indication of the depth of the problem.
Some people are pulling out the race card and waving it around like a great big red flag. That might seem like a solution but bluntly it is not.
The solutions will come as Thunder Bay starts to deal with the issues of alcohol abuse and drug abuse.
First, it is time to have enough places that police and social agencies can take an intoxicated person. Thunder Bay has limited resources for de-tox, and police in making an arrest for public intoxication end up with hours of paperwork. There are about thirty de-tox beds in the city. Kenora has more facilities than Thunder Bay.
Alpha House in Calgary Demonstrates Solutions
Alpha House in Calgary Alberta has been in operation for a long time. They offer a stigma-free and safe place where police can safely place an intoxicated person.
Thunder Bay will invest half a million dollars into programs to pull people off the streets during the winter. Councillor Joe Virdiramo has stated that this program saves lives, and he is right.
As being often said ‘Handcuffs are not a solution’.
One individual who has got up from his addiction to alcohol commented that having a safe place to sleep it off. If there were a place like that, which could offer that, along with the opportunity to talk, the seeds could be planted to get off the bottle.
The fact is that no one decides as a child that his or her life ambition is to be a drunk.
Feds and Province Need to Step Up
Thunder Bay needs to explore, along with northern communities, the province and the federal government to have Thunder Bay’s version of Calgary’s Alpha House.
Housing in Thunder Bay is a serious issue. Finding apartments for students at Confederation College and Lakehead University is an issue.
Over the course of the past several years, as the Ring of Fire and mining opportunities have been discussed, the number of new jobs has been pegged at about 5000 jobs.
If there were 3000 families move to our city, the question must be raised as to where would they live? Housing is already at a premium, and rental accommodations are so tight that the vacancy rates are at about two per cent.
For people with issues with alcohol or drugs, property owners with apartments to rent are in a position of picking and choosing their tenants.
Shelter House, which is full every night, is, as previously discussed, “Thunder Bay’s Canary in the Coal Mine”.
Shelter House has become, for some people in Thunder Bay their home. There is more demand than the facility can handle.
Solutions should include public private partnerships with First Nations communities and government to put in place safe homes for people in our community.
The next stage should be once a person is engaged with one of the social agencies to do a needs bases assessment and start people on the path getting their lives moving in the direction that they want.
Talk to a lot of the people on the streets, and you will find that they have hopes, dreams, and want many of the same things in life that we all do. In many cases they simply do not have the needed tools or support to get there.
The steps forward mean getting some of the social workers out of their offices onto the streets and into the homes of their clients.
A look at the Methadone Issue
At the provincial level perhaps it is time to have the province assess what exactly is going on with methadone prescriptions. In Thunder Bay a majority of those prescriptions are being written by doctors in Toronto who never see the patient in person who they have under their care. Methadone causes other health issues.
Thunder Bay has way too many methadone clinics. The message might be there is too much profit in the business, that the overall health of the patients are being overlooked.
The process should be examined to see exactly what is going on here, and to see exactly how many patients in Thunder Bay have been successfully treated with the large number of methadone clinics in the city.
If all we are doing is leaving people on methadone because it is a source of income for some in the business, then it is obviously time for a change.
That is an area that the province should be looking at.
The next stage in effecting change is a Youth Strategy that engages young people from the time they arrive in Thunder Bay from northern communities up until the time they graduate from High School, College or University. City Council and City Manager Tim Commisso have been working hard on this file. Council has done some of the heavy lifting. Support for Youth Centres Thunder Bay has been supported by Council, but some of the management team at City Hall seem less supportive.
Thunder Bay needs a comprehensive youth strategy that takes young people from through the good side of our city, and lessens the temptation to walk on the bad side of the city. That strategy needs more of the public/private partnerships coupled with Matawa, NAN, and northern communities being directly involved. The federal government should be stepping up too.
There is lots of work to be done, it is going to take a lot of effort, time and energy, but in the long run the benefits to Thunder Bay, and to Northwestern Ontario are going to be worth it.
The only question is what is the reasons to wait?