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Tackling Car Thieves: A Doable Solution

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley says car owners without immobilizers should know car thieves steal cars to use as "four-wheel bullets" on city streets.

Winnipeg Police Sgt. Doug Safioles says the worst car thieves suffer from a mental disorder that impairs their knowledge of right and wrong.

Manitoba Justice Minister Dave Chomiak says he's going to Ottawa to lobby for tougher laws against car theft. So, let's see...

We have to blame law-abiding car owners for car theft.
We can't blame the car thieves because they're nuts.
And the Conservatives are soft on crime and should listen to the NDP for solutions.
Uh huh.

It's bad enough that MPI has decided the solution is to blame the victims.

And that the police are now making excuses for the people they arrest.

But seeing Dave Chomiak pretend to be tough-on-crime is too much.

Yet, it was only fitting that the living symbol of failure in the NDP government should be front and centre at Tuesday's car-theft news conference.

Dave "Six Months" Chomiak is still new at the job of Justice Minister. But his legacy of disaster as Manitoba's Health Minister foreshadows his every move. His pathetic act of "getting tough on crime" fools no one. His presence tells us the NDP has no hope of ending car theft but he'll do his best to make it look like they do.

Chomiak has shown many faces to Manitoba. The gloating grin of victory when the NDP defeated the Tories in 1999 was followed by his perpetual smirk as Health Minister as he prepared to "undo the damage" to the healthcare system.

Six months was all it would take to end hallway medicine, the NDP had proclaimed. But six months gave way to another six months, then another six months, then another and another and another and another and pretty soon Chomiak was looking like the inmate of an insane asylum, gaunt, his uncombed hair frizzed out at all angles, his face twitching as he made yet another excuse for doctor shortages, nurse shortages, hospital closures, wait times and, of course, hallway medicine.

After five years, Premier Gary Doer mercifully put Chomiak out of his misery by giving him the portfolio of Science, Technology, Energy and Mines.

Pretty soon a new Dave Chomiak popped up. He looked more groomed, but he didn't appear any more sane. He was always grinning like a maniac. He was The Joker's crazier brother. It was scary. What if he stopped taking his meds?

Last year another cabinet shuffle put "Six Months" Chomiak in the Justice Minister's office. He now gets to wear dark suits and put on a serious face to show how serious he is about serious issues like car-theft. So far he isn't promising an end to car theft in six months.

Instead, he's---drum roll---going to Ottawa to tell the Conservatives to toughen up the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Take that, you thieving thieves. We guess he forgot he made the exact same pitch last October at a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers in Newfoundland. Or at least he hopes you forgot. For crying out loud, it's a free trip to Ottawa. Chomiak, you see, is just following in his predecessor's footsteps.

Gord "Huff 'n' Puff" Macintosh spent his entire seven years as Justice Minister collecting air miles from his regular trips to Ottawa to lobby the feds for tougher laws. Other than frequent flyer points, he got nada.

Chomiak can't say the bar is set too high.

If the NDP were serious about tackling the epidemic of car theft that's ravaged the province, and especially Winnipeg, throughout their term in office, they don't have to look to Ottawa. They have all the power right here in Manitoba.

All they lack is balls.

The Manitoba Child and Family Services Act gives "Six Months" Chomiak all the power he needs to end car theft in the province.

Step One: stop thinking of it as a law and order problem and think of it as a child abuse problem.

The Child and Family Services Act sets the stage:

1(1) In this Act "abuse" means an act or omission by any person where the act or omission results in
(a) physical injury to the child,
(b) emotional disability of a permanent nature in the child or is likely to result in such a disability...

Is driving a stolen car at high speeds through city streets likely to result in emotional disability of the passengers?

Child in need of protection
17(1) For purposes of this Act, a child is in need of protection where the life, health or emotional well-being of the child is endangered by the act or omission of a person.

Is driving or riding in a stolen car being used as a "four-wheel bullet" a danger to the life, health or emotional well-being of a child?

Hmmm. Can "Six Months" answer this question without help? Here's some further clues from the Act.

Illustrations of child in need
17(2) Without restricting the generality of subsection (1), a child is in need of protection where the child
(a) is without adequate care, supervision or control;
(b) is in the care, custody, control or charge of a person (i) who is unable or unwilling to provide adequate care, supervision or control of the child, or
(ii) whose conduct endangers or might endanger the life, health or emotional well-being of the child, or
(iii) who neglects or refuses to provide or obtain proper medical or other remedial care or treatment necessary for the health or well-being of the child or who refuses to permit such care or treatment to be provided to the child when the care or treatment is recommended by a duly qualified medical practitioner;

Are repeat car thieves under adequate "care, supervision or control"?
Are their parents "unable or unwilling to provide adequate care, supervision or control of the child?"


What can we do about car thieves when the Youth Justice Act forces the courts to release the thieves to their parents without punishment? Another clue....

Apprehension of a child in need of protection
21(1) The director, a representative of an agency or a peace officer who on reasonable and probable grounds believes that a child is in need of protection, may apprehend the child without a warrant and take the child to a place of safety where the child may be detained for examination and temporary care and be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of this Part.

We don't need changes to the Youth Justice Act to take car thieves into custody and hold them until they are responsible enough to be let out into the world.

We need politicians who are responsible---who refuse to let the rights of 100 car thieves trump the rights of tens of thousands of law abiding car owners--- who will stop making excuses for their own inaction.

The last thing we need is another politician taking another free trip to Ottawa.

Here's an idea. If "Six Months" Chomiak doesn't have the balls to use the Child and Family Service Act to get at car thieves, he can at least save Manitobans money and a carbon dioxide spewing air flight to Ottawa.

Chomiak can simply go to these four addresses right here in Winnipeg:

* 892 Sargent Ave.
* 573 Mountain Ave.
* D-729 Corydon Ave.
* 4-213 St. Mary's Road

These are the constituency offices of his NDP colleagues in Parliament, Pat Martin and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, and the soft-on-crime Liberals Anita Neville and Raymond Simard and ask them why they've done their best to water down the Conservative government's tougher treatment of lawbreakers.

If these do-nothings won't get tough on gun crimes, how do you think they'll vote on legislation to get tough on car thieves?

Spare us the empty theatrics. "Six Months" is going to be as successful in ending car theft as he was in ending hallway medicine.

Just ask your doctor. If you can find one.

**Special post-script**

Crimestat shows that auto theft and attempted theft in Winnipeg is running 13 percent ahead of last year Jan. 1-March 6.

- Actual car thefts are down 22 percent (339 vehicles) while attempted thefts are up 75 percent (655 vehicles), meaning that there are now nearly twice as many victims of auto theft as last year.
- Districts 5 and 6 showed the most improvement. Car theft is down 10 percent in both districts, and the number of attempts is significantly less than the drop in actual thefts.
- District 2 and 3 had the worst showing. District 2 had eleven fewer thefts and 108 more attempts. District 3 had 41 fewer thefts and a whopping 337 more attempts. Together that's almost 400 more victims of car theft in only five weeks.

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