The Kelowna-Lake Country candidates have differing views on how their parties would address crime problems.

The Kelowna-Lake Country candidates have differing views on how their parties would address crime problems.

Close-up: Addressing root causes of crime

Most people would agree we’d like to walk down the street and not fear being targeted by a criminal.

Most people would agree we’d like to walk down the street and not fear being targeted by a criminal. But just how to achieve—and maintain—safe streets in the midst of a decade-long decline in crime in this country is something that each major political party is approaching differently.

Green Party candidate Alice Hooper says her party wants to look at the “big picture” when dealing with issues of crime and also shift the focus of police and justice resources.

While criminals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and the Greens advocate greater resources for such things as securities crime investigations and prosecuting white collar criminals, the judicial system is getting plugged up by young offenders caught smoking pot, she said.

As a result, those charged with more serious offences are benefiting from court delays, Hooper says.

The party believes drug addiction should be treated as a health problem, not a criminal issue, and also believes in the legalization of marijuana.

Legalization would allow policing resources to be focused on other issues and would put an estimated $2 billion annually into the federal coffers, Hooper said.

As well, it would effectively cut off funding for biker gangs and organized crime groups, she said, as they get their funding through being involved in the illicit drug world.

For the NDP, they believe focusing on early childhood education and helping marginalized people provide for their basic needs will pay dividends down the road.

“It’s about looking at it comprehensively,” said Kelowna-Lake Country NDP candidate Tisha Kalmanovitch.

“When you have strong, healthy communities…crime rates are not as high.”

Prisons and policing, she said, deal with “symptoms, not causes” and money spent on high levels of incarceration would be better invested in early childhood education.

Increased levels of policing—the NDP are promising to work with provincial governments to find funding for 2,500 police officers—should be focused more in the area of community policing, Kalmanovitch said.

Liberal candidate Kris Stewart also pointed back to dealing with the root causes of crime, and said more funding is needed to support those with mental health issues and addictions, and also for job support.

“I think we can do a better job of reducing crime,” said Stewart, by making sure people can meet their basic needs “as a means and ways of supporting themselves.”

“The Liberals have come up with a number of plans to get people ready for the job market and off the streets.”

Their platform includes $1 billion in support for families for higher education, and strategies to help create more jobs in small business.

Adding police officers, she said, doesn’t address the root causes of crime. “It’s not in their scope.”

Nor does she agree with mandatory minimum sentences. “It basically removes judges from the equation,” Stewart said.

“We need policies that are tough on crime, but we’ve got to be smart on crime.”

She claims that the Conservative platform only includes a “very expensive half” of the equation in dealing with crime through “U.S.-style mega prisons” and mandatory minimum sentences.

But Conservative candidate Ron Cannan says that claims they want to build mega prisons are a “myth.”

“We’re building prison rehabilitation,” he said, renovating and adding on to prisons to create better working conditions and accommodate prison populations.

He also says its wrong to say their party is all about prisons and locking people up for committing crime, says the Conservatives have a five-pronged approach, including prevention.

Cannan highlighted the creation of the youth gang prevention fund, the national anti-drug strategy, a crime prevention strategy, a youth justice fund and their government being the first to put in place a mental health commission, noting that a majority of inmates have a drug dependency or mental health issue.

Other prongs of the Conservative’s approach include truth in sentencing, support for police and prosecutors so they can do their work effectively, cracking down on organized crime (including the earlier creation of a Kelowna-based gang task force) and dealing with dangerous violent offenders.

Still, Cannan says more work needs to be done to ensure the punishment fits the crime and address community frustration with a system that’s been dubbed “catch and release.”

“The reality is that our community is demanding our criminal justice system to be stronger,” he said. “There has to be consequences to people’s actions. Minimum mandatory sentences has been one of the most effective ways of that.”

If their party makes government, they’ve promised to pass a number of bills in their first 100 days in office to address a number of crime issues. “It’s a good and balanced approach,” said Cannan of his party’s policies.”

 

cweirda@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

Kelowna Capital News