I had the great pleasure of working with Donald Clairmont on the Mayor’s Roundtable of Violence and Public Safety back in 2007-2008. The Mayor’s Roundtable was a response to a crime wave involving mostly youth. A response to Teresa McEvoy and the kiddie swarmings and the late night downtown brawls that were breaking out (though the Christmas Eve brawl came after the meetings). A response to an American Sailor being stabbed and a few drive-by shootings. A response to a McLean’s Magazine article ranking Halifax as having the highest rates of crime in the country.
One of my tasks was to observe the Roundtable meeting at City Hall and take notes for Don, who was helping moderate the presentations. It was a long day, but I learned a lot about law and order in this city. I wrote a blog after the meeting, which you can read here if you want to… but given the recent crime wave bonanza in the city I thought I’d look back and see how many of the policy proposals and suggestions we’ve implemented since those meetings in 2007:
One theme that did not go unnoticed was the call for change… some sort of change… any sort of change… Recognition that the current system is not working and the culture is moving faster than any policy can catch. Just acknowledging that there is a need to start “thinking outside the box” is a big step for some of these officials. One of the best sentiments came from the Executive Director of the newly formed Provincial Child and Youth Strategy, Robert Wright… Any policy designed to address these issues of youth culture and societal change should be inclusive and acknowledge the multiplicity of contexts that are represented in day-to-day social life. And it should acknowledge that when it comes to policy surrounding youth, they are moving targets. A good youth policy/strategy has to be malleable and move as fast to meet the needs of the moment. Now whether the government can actually speed up the processes of bureaucracy will be another matter all together.
So a few of the specific suggestions that came from that day of presentations and where we are on them:
From the urban planner, Frank Palermo – HRM should start thinking of itself as a 24-hour city with 24 hour public transit. – yeah, okay… NEXT!
From a number of presenters – The opening of schools to act as community centres in after-school hours – well parents are fighting to keep community schools open just for school so… no.
Also from a number of presenters – Possibility of “community courts” for low level crimes, mental health related crime and drug treatment – we almost got a community court a few months ago, then something happened and it’s stalled
From Strategic Planner Jack Novack – The municipal government should get all the junk off their agenda and start thinking about policy that really matters for the growth and development of the city. – feeding the ducks… need I say more?
From Don Clairmont – The employment of a public safety coordinator attached to the Mayor’s Office well we got a public safety coordinator attached to the Police Force. I think the idea was to get an administrator in there, not another police officer… but, at least it is half there.
From Don Clairmont – Race Relations The race issue is never in the forefront of crime in Halifax, ever… despite the fact that black men are waaaaay overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Race relations are this city’s biggest shame… the ghosts of Africville haunt.
From Don Clairmont – Community Policing (not more police, but more visible police) – It seems as though they are doing both. They’ve hired more police, so that’s why I see them all the time and everywhere in the Capital Districts… There is a difference between visibility and feeling as though you are under siege in a police state.
Don gave about 60 recommendations to the City in total, some of them have started rolling and I think we’re seeing improvements where they have been. It would be interesting to know, from the City, how many of the recommendations from the Roundtable have been enacted since it came out last year.
My take on the current rash of shootings is that they are mostly gang-related. Which means they are almost certainly mostly drug-related. But there are concerning crimes happening that aren’t because of gangs .
Beazley said the public was not being targeted in the crimes that were happening. This was the day after 2 girls were taken hostage in a bowling alley heist, and a few days before a 19-year old was shot in the head (and then died).
The murder that was down the street from me turned out to be accidental2nd degree. In a run-down old rooming house involving folks know to the police. That was the 2nd 2nd degree murder on my block within the year.
And in the midst of it all Jimmy Melvin Jr. becomes a citizen journalist.