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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
Toronto Crime Blogging
25/02/2004

Thanks to the latest Carnival of the Canucks, hosted by The G Spot, I've discovered some other blog commentary on Toronto's crime situation.

Generally the right wing of the local blogosphere is predictably critical of David Miller's plan to address gangs and guns.

At The Meatriarchy there is this dismissal:

Of course the program will focus on the "social conditions" that breed crime. How about dismantling public housing? That would be a start. How about asking your friends in Ottawa to take the 2 Billion they are wasting on a gun registry and applying it to better border security so that illegal guns aren't continually flooding into our city? Remember at least half of the guns in the hands of criminals here come from south of the border. As a bonus we would be doing our part to keep the border safe from terrorists as well.

Nope there will be a lot of feel good programs (mostly focusing on racism you can bet) that will come out of this but none will stop the problem. Teenagers get into gangs because it is exciting and because the criminal activities are lucrative. Having everyone finger paint and do paper mache isn't going to help one bit. Not as long as their musical heroes are extolling the virtues of "thug life" and "pimping".

Then, the "Rugged Intellectual" writes:

Just thought I'd submit some of the crime reports from the Toronto police this past week. Aside from a certain common feature of most of the suspects (addressing the root cause isn't the answer right now Mayor Miller), it also shows why TTC ridership has been going down for years. I notice there's lots of reported activity near the Victoria Park subway station for example. It's a lot more than teenagers behaving badly, the Vic Park and Kennedy stations have been notorious swarming hubs for years. The endless Four Seasons and Brandenburg Concertos played over the loudspeakers just drives them outside the stations to cause trouble there. Can't blame it on the hip-hop culture of course....

The "certain common feature of most of the suspects" that Rugged Ron refers to is that very many are black.

And in comments to the same post he adds:

Well I grew up in what passed for a multi-ethnic area of Toronto in the 60's, in a working class industrial area, and we didn't have a hell of a lot. Still, the girls weren't getting pregnant at 13 and we didn't turn to robbery, drug dealing and murder.

The problem with "affordable housing" is that the intentions might be good, but instead it exacerbates the separation of the underclass, and we've seen the lack of maintenace at Ontario Housing buildings and complexes. The politicians feel the need to "do something", so they enact disastrous policies that only marginalize people further. More Regent Parks get built. Reducing taxes is the best place to start, let people keep more of their own money for starters.

I actually agree with a fair bit of what these two critics are writing about.

On the issue of guns, I've expressed the same opinions as The Meatriarchy does here for over a year. I want the federal government to crack down on gun smuggling from the US, I want stiffer penalties for gun crime because it is unacceptable, and I regret the federal government's bungling of this file. What I don't get is how Mr. Meatriarchy comes to the conclusion that David Miller holds an opposing view, or is directing resources away from these issues. After all, he does quote one point of Miller's plan as "lobby senior governments for tougher sentencing and stricter gun-control legislation".

As well, the points that Meatriarchy and the Rugged Intellectual make about public housing projects are the broadly-accepted consensus. That's why the city is entirely restructuring Regent Park to integrate aid recipients with the rest of us. I suppose TM & RI might like to go farther and entirely eliminate any housing support, but that would put them well beyond Mike Harris or any other public figure in this country.

The main debate here, however, is about whether or not the City should take any steps to address "root causes" of gang involvement. To guys like The Meatriarchy or Rugged Ron, (not to mention The National Post) this approach is wimpy left-winger pandering to criminals.

However, neither of these critics seems to deny that one's environment plays a role in the choices they make. For example, they both cite public housing and hip hop as factors in promoting criminal behaviour.

So, who can argue against building a community centre at, for example, Jane-Finch so that young kids have something to do other than hang out with older gang members on street corners?

There is nothing incompatible with the idea that "people must be responsible for their own actions" and the pragmatic assertion that "environmental circumstances contribute to individuals' decisions to engage in crime, and it is in our interest to adjust these circumstances". Just because we have every right to hold gang members responsible for choosing crime doesn't mean that we shouldn't be trying to offer young kids some better alternatives.

(However, I still would like to hear from Ron about how lowering taxes is going to make crime go away. I'm also interested to know what action he feels we can take now that he has discovered that a disproportionate number of serious crimes are committed by black Torontonians.)


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