Let me begin by using an analogy:
When the British Petroleum well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, spewing million of barrels of oil into the water, two simultaneous approaches were implemented to deal with the issue. First, immediate attempts were made to cap the well to stop the flow of oil, and secondly, remediation efforts were employed to deal with the effect of the spill in terms of doing clean-up along the coastline of various southern states. Both the cause and the effects were dealt with.
Now, let’s draw a comparison to crime in Winnipeg:
Traditional reactive policing can be compared to relying on remediation efforts as a means of addressing the issue of crime. You allow the well (in this case, crime) to spew unabated and spend most if not all of your policing resources on cleaning up the mess created by criminal activity.
The problem is that it never ends. The well spews out new criminals on a daily basis and the system is caught up in a catch 22. The police are so busy attending calls for service, making arrests, seizing evidence and testifying in court that they have little time left to perform in a proactive manner. Nor is there time left to enact preventative measures. The result: the well never gets capped.
A preventative mindset would see police employ an approach that focuses much greater attention to capping the well;that is, activities designed to reduce criminal activity and to keep young people from becoming involved in criminal activity. A preventative mindset and a proactive approach are long term strategies. It involves recognizing the need for some short term pain for long term gain. It involves investing in the future of our community.
One of the problems in terms of the municipal approach to policing is the definition of ‘long term’. For municipal politicians, long term means their current term in office. A 3 or 4 year term is not long enough to enact significant changes and produce results from a policing and crime prevention perspective. Municipal politicians are more attuned to the`flavour of the day approach’. Crime prevention is not a sexy political issue. More uniform officers on the street, CCTV cameras, a gang unit and a helicopter may not solve our crime problem but they certainly are bound to create attention-grabbing headlines to hang your hat on at election time.
It’s about time the electorate woke up and had a close look at how the current civic administration is spending our money. Municipal taxes are meant to pay for civic infrastructure and services. They are not meant to be squandered at election time by politicians seeking to buy our votes with our own money. The problem of crime is not solved by political expediency.
Although oil wells can be capped completely, stopping the flow of oil, no one is naive enough to believe that all crime can be totally eliminated through preventative measures. But nor does it take a rocket scientist to comprehend that leaving the well uncapped means crime will keep increasing, the police will continue to be overtaxed with calls for service, and the cost of providing municipal services will keep increasing.
I’m waiting for a mayoralty candidate that is prepared to stand up and say “I’m going to devote resources to capping the well”.