FIGHTING GANGS WITH PHOTO OPS
"Time to take back our streets"
"In your face"
"We're coming for you"
Mayor Sam Katz declared war on gangs this week.
Last year he declared war on mosquitoes, and we all know that campaign went down to abject defeat.
The final tally:
Mosquitoes: 57 cases of West Nile virus (not all in Winnipeg)
Katz: zero credibility as a general and mosquito fighter.
The only thing that saved his political hide was having the province order citywide spraying of malathion just as the West Nile threat approached its peak.
In his new battle, the only help Katz can call on is Police Chief Jack Ewatski. The irony escaped the mayor. There isn't one person in the city who did more to stop gang prosecutions in its tracks than our hapless police chief.
Maybe if he hadn't suspended half the homicide and organized crime unit, only to say 'oops' two years later, we wouldn't be going through this exercise.
Of course, Justice Minister Huff 'n Puff Gord Macintosh was absent, as usual. He obviously thought he could serve the city better by playing politics with gang strategy and waiting until he could score points in the new session of the Legislature.
Sam and Jack, the mayor and the police chief, announced 45 police officers were going to be seconded to a new gang unit. They expect them to work lots of overtime.
It doesn't really matter, though. Because what the mayor needs most is what he's not going to get--the help of people who can do more than police to stop the gangs..
Like Judge Ron Meyers. More than even Jack Ewatski, Judge Meyers is responsible for the sorry state of violent crime in the city.
Ron Meyers, you'll remember, is the judge who, in 2003, sentenced a teenager to one day in jail for killing a man by beating him to death with a pool ball in a sock, a gang weapon known as an 8-ball.
This was the tipping point for gang activity in Winnipeg.
Meyers goes down in history as the may who put a value on human life in the Peg--one day, just long enough to show up and hear you are free to go. Sweet, said the gangs.
The result --34 homicides the following year, a new record.
Winnipegers know that the threat to their safety doesn't come from the Mad Cowz, or the Indian Posse, or the Hell's Angels. It comes from the lackadaisical attitude to the safety of citizens by the Men in Black Robes who have abandoned their role as protectors of the public's right to a peaceful and safe life.
Caught red-handed with guns and crack in your car? Don't worry. A Winnipeg judge will drop the charges and lecture the police who arrested you for not saying "Pretty please" when they asked you to open your trunk.
Caught red-handed selling crack cocaine for a dial-a-dealer operation? Don't worry, be happy. The judge will send you home to watch television for six months. Hell, make a frowny face and he'll toss in a TV Guide.
The message is getting out loud and clear. This week a crack dealer was arrested in a house full of guns. Who gets charged with gun possession? The dealer's 13 year old son. Everybody knows the law says you can't send a kid to jail - so guess who's going to walk free? Thanks sucker, er, I mean Judge.
And who else wasn't at the anti-gang news conference. Well, let's name names.
- Reg Alcock
- Anita Neville
- Raymond Simard
The Liberal Party Members of Parliament, and their star candidates like John Loewen, weren't about to show up in public when crime is being discussed. And they know the mainstream press in the city isn't about to track them down for answers.
Remember that when Canadian police officers held their 27th annual memorial service on Parliament Hill two weeks ago, the Liberals headed for the hills.
They didn't want to hear the pleas to toughen sentences for marijuana grow operators, to tighten up parole and sentencing criteria, and to scrap plans to decriminalize marijuana. Not then, not now. The Liberal MP's are too busy trying to figure out how to divert attention from the criminal activity of their own party members to worry about answering for their inability to fight crime in the streets.
What we're witnessing in Winnipeg is the fruits of a crack epidemic that's been growing in strength for several years.
Almost two years ago police tried sounding the alarm. Winnipeg, they said, had as many as 3,000 crack dealers at the time.. That wasn't surprising, considering that dealers could make as much as $2,000 a night.
Then-Mayor Glen Murray was too busy throwing street parties and preparing his jump to federal politics to listen. Current Mayor Sam Katz can't be found whenever there's a crisis in the city, so why would he go out of his way to address something that was only a crisis to police and to people walking on public sidewalks.
This week, one reporter from each of the television news stations spent a night on the streets to experience the life of "the homeless." It was arranged by something called the Manitoba Harm Reduction Network. The intent was obviously to get sympathetic coverage, which could be used to leverage more money for "the homeless."
And the coverage was sympathetic, or at least the reporters and hosts thought so since not one of them addressed the obvious fallacy of their reports.
" It's cold. It's dark. It's the homeless at night! Film at 6 and 11..."
* Global's Jayme Doll featured a chap who worked two jobs - yet was still homeless. Why? Oh, he said, he spent all his money - on cocaine.
* CKY's Rachel Lagace, decked out in brand new spotless white touque and parka, let a transgendered prostitute be her guide to the harsh world of the "homeless." Except that he (or is it she) lived at the McLaren Hotel - hardly homeless - and said he spent - wait for it- $5,000 a week on crack.
* CBC's Crystal Goomansingh saw her guide turn up rig after needle after syringe amidst the squalor of the backlanes, underpasses and empty lots - and talked to Krista about anything but what it really meant.
Not one of these crack reporters managed to recognize the link between the subjects of their stories and the source of gang profits. Nor did their editors.
And you wonder why people get their news from the blogosphere rather than the MSM.
There's a saying: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
The Mayor's new gang plan is political farce. Without judges willing to say there's a penalty for taking a life, for selling highly addictive drugs, for ignoring court orders, for carrying guns, it's all a joke.
When the crack epidemic swept the United States ten or twelve years ago, cities floundered just as Katz and Ewatski are floundering today. It took a drastic tool-- mandatory minimum sentences for possessing and selling crack cocaine-- to break the back of the epidemic in Detroit, in Memphis, in Kansas City. The people had to take the streets back from the judges to restore order.
Be prepared for a lot more mayhem before we see real leaders step up to the plate.