Rave Radio: Offline (0/0)
Email: Password:
News (Media Awareness Project) - CN BC: Tackling Chronic Offenders Key to Reducing Vancouver's
Title:CN BC: Tackling Chronic Offenders Key to Reducing Vancouver's
Published On:2012-01-21
Source:Globe and Mail (Canada)
Fetched On:2012-01-23 06:03:04

Emily Grant was homeless for around six years, often sleeping in back
lanes and abandoned cars and spending up to $300 a day to support a
heroin and crack cocaine habit.

Like her homeless addicted friends, she raised the money to buy drugs
any way she could. Most of her money came from prostitution. Her
friends also turned to drug dealing and theft.

Ms. Grant, 28, now lives in an apartment, no longer works as a
prostitute and is staying away from narcotics. Some of her friends
have also moved off the street and away from crime, a trend reflected
in statistics released earlier this week on crime in Vancouver.

Crime rates, driven mostly by addicts looking for money to buy drugs,
have dropped significantly in the city over the past five years.
Property crime has dropped by 29 per cent since 2007, while violent
crime has declined by 12 per cent.

A chronic offender program that includes efforts to providing housing
and drug treatment has made a difference, Vancouver Police Chief Jim
Chu told the Vancouver Police Board. Ms. Grant echoed his words,
saying she believes repeat offenders will not change without measures
to deal with their addiction.

Her friends find shoplifting "incredibly easy," she said over a chai
at a coffee shop in East Vancouver. Occasionally they are caught, but
they just laugh at how police and the courts respond.

One of her friends got a three-month sentence on his sixth offence.
He came out of jail and went right back to doing the same thing. "He
had to, to support his [drug habit]. He knew no other way," she said.

Without hearing about statistics, Ms. Grant knew from the buzz on the
street that break-ins had dropped off. Police in the past few years
have been responding to break-ins much faster in Vancouver, making it
difficult to flee before the cops arrive, she said.

"I heard people who do them say it is very difficult to do them in
Vancouver. You have to go out to the outskirts, like Langley or
Abbotsford," she said.

Ms. Grant also knew firsthand what Mayor Gregor Robertson says that
providing decent housing to the homeless can be a step toward
reducing crime. Ms. Grant got her apartment through At Home/Chez Soi,
a national, $110-million project on mental health and homelessness.

"It's a one-bedroom with a full bathroom and full kitchen, a
dishwasher, a garburator. I have large closet space, it's just like a
regular apartment," she said. "This ... is just so amazing. It is
helping so many people, and everything else blossoms from there."

Chief Chu sat next to Mr. Robertson at the police board meeting
earlier this week. He appeared pleased to hear board members praise
the work of the department based on the most recent crime statistics.

The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics has reported that Canada's
crime rate is at its lowest since the early 1970s. But B.C. has one
of the highest crime rates, with 8,404 incidents per 100,000 people,
almost double that of Ontario and Quebec. The national average is
6,145 incidents per 100,000 people. Vancouver remains more dangerous
than other major Canadian cities.

However, crime rates in Vancouver have dropped significantly over the
past five years. The rate of property crime has decreased for nine
consecutive years, declining last year to about half the rate of
2002. In the last three months of 2011, property crime decreased by
4.5 per cent citywide. In the southeast corner, property crime
dropped by almost 15 per cent.

Violent crimes homicide, attempted murder, sexual offences,
assaults and robberies are not disappearing as quickly. The rate of
violent crime fluctuated in the early part of the past decade before
it dropped 12 per cent in the past five years. The rate of sexual
offences increased from 2007 to 2010, but dropped by 10 per cent in 2011.

"We're heading in the right direction," Chief Chu told the police
board. "The good news is [the crime rate in Vancouver is] dropping
faster than any place else in Canada. The not-so-good news is we are
still higher than the Canadian average."

Interviews with police, criminologists and the Downtown Vancouver
Business Improvement Association turned up several explanations for
the significant drop in Vancouver's crime rates: effective policing,
changes in society and better housing for the homeless.

Chief Chu talked about the department's chronic offender program that
shifts the focus from the crime to the criminal. Detectives prepare
extensive biographies of offenders, listing every contact with
police, the courts and the penal system. Personal histories, which
also include information about an offender's drug addiction and
mental health, are sent to Crown counsel and the courts before
sentencing, along with victim impact statements and a listing of
social services that are available.

When chronic offenders are out of jail, a detective will sit down
with them and ask what they need to stay away from crime, Chief Chu
said. "We say, what can we do to get you out of this
lifestyle housing, treatment, anything we can do," he said.

Unlike cities with lower numbers, crime rates in Vancouver are driven
by repeat offenders who are likely addicted to crack cocaine or
crystal meth, and stealing to get their fix, Chief Chu said after the
board meeting.

Vancouver has more of those individuals than anywhere else in Canada.
They sell stolen goods for 10 cents on the dollar. "Add up how much
they have to steal in order to feed that drug habit," he said. "When
we take a chronic offender off the street, we can see a noticeable
reduction in crime," Chief Chu said.

At Home/Chez Soiis a five-year experiment in five cities sponsored by
the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The project in Vancouver is
looking at what needs to be done to help homeless people who are
coping with a drug addiction and mental health issues.

It provides housing first. Once a relationship has been established,
the homeless are offered a range of social services to help with
substance abuse and mental health issues. Among the research that is
underway is a study on whether housing, and the services that go
along with that, have an impact on crime involving homeless people,
both as victims or perpetrators. Results are expected by the fall of 2012.

Ms. Grant already knows the answer. "Being inside makes a big
difference. ... When you are living on the street, it is so
depressing. You want to be constantly high to get away from the
horribleness of your reality," she said. "But when you are in a home,
it is so much easier to cut your drug use down."

Mr. Grant said she eased off drugs after she moved to her apartment
and has been clean for over a year. She is now working on completing
Grade 12 and hopes to do a course on drug and alcohol counselling. "I
feel ecstatic," she said. "I wake up every morning and I feel
thankful that I am indoors."
Member Comments
No member comments available...