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The NDP's gangfighters roll out their plans

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer sat stonefaced in the Legislature, staring at the raving man who stood beside him.

The man was bellowing at the top of his lungs, his arms flailing, spit flying from his mouth.

It was three days ago.

Doer watched as the madman ranted on and on, and the lame-duck premier counted the minutes until he could walk away from this madhouse to the sanity of a diplomatic posting in Washington.

But we don't have that option. For that lunatic in the Legislature was none other than Manitoba Attorney General Dave Chomiak.

What set off his bout of carpet-chewing was a demand from the Opposition for him to table his promised new gang strategy or resign.

Thursday, he rolled out his gang strategy.

He should have resigned instead.

His much touted NEW gang strategy turned out to be a cut-and-paste job of every "new" gang strategy the NDP has trotted out in the past decade.
The cornerstone of Chomiak's new strategy dates back seventy years --- a list of Public Enemies consisting of up to 50 adult gang leaders.

Dave Chomiak is channeling J. Edgar Hoover. John Dillinger better watch out.

A new strategy calls for new resources, right?

Chomiak the gangfighter thinks four more people should be enough.

He's adding three new hires to the provincial Criminal Organization and High Risk Offenders Unit to assist police to conduct an in-your-face program of applying constant pressure on active gang members on that list. Gee, you mean like the Criminal Organization High Risk Probation Unit that was part of the street gang containment initiative the NDP announced in 2000?

Does anybody remember 2005? July 15, 2005, to be exact. That's when the Winnipeg police made this announcement:

Project House Call Ringing in Results
Project House Call has been ensuring offenders in the community on court ordered conditions are living up their obligations or facing the consequences.
The task force was first run in May. Officers from the Winnipeg Police Service's Division 11 Community Support Unit (CSU) and Manitoba Justice's Probation Services Criminal Organization and High Risk Offenders Unit (COHROU) partnered together, identifying a list of offenders and doing proactive sweeps to check for compliance with curfews and other conditions."

"The average compliance rate has been 73%. Results on individual nights have ranged from as low as 59% to as high as 80%. The proposal for the project came from the front line staff of Manitoba Justice and the Winnipeg Police Service.
It's expected that Project House Call will continue to be run regularly throughout the summer."

Sound familiar?

Well, since nobody remembers what the NDP promised nine years ago or four years ago, a better analogy is the Winnipeg Auto Theft Suppression Strategy which has police officers babysitting the city's worst car thieves.

Hasn't it cut car theft by more than two-thirds in only two years? It's been a big success, other than the fact that while the street crimes police were making sure car thieves were comfortably tucked into bed each night, the gangs have grown larger, more aggressive, and have branched out into new fields.

* Muggings are up 35 percent this year alone (75 percent in District 3).
* House break-ins---up 18 percent citywide.

* Police district 4 (North Kildonan, East Kildonan, Transcona, and "Elmwood" area) is a real "success" story with auto theft down 38 percent while residential break-ins are up 28 percent, garage break-ins up 21 percent, robberies up 20 percent, and muggings up 39 percent.

The lesson here is that when you change priorities without adding more police, the old priorities suffer. And so does the public. Duh.

Chomiak also promised a new civilian analyst to create a new gang database for police. You mean something like the previously announced Manitoba Integrated Organized Crime Task Force which "brings together police resources to focus on intelligence-led enforcement to seriously disrupt organized crime at the leadership level." Or the previously announced Corrections Intelligence Unit which "co-ordinates intelligence on gang members who are on supervised probation or in adult and youth institutions."

Or just maybe, maybe, it will be like the old gang database?

It was such a useful tool in investigations and prosecutions that as far back as 2000 Winnipeg police were getting calls from police forces across the country for tips on how to set up their own.

Why do we detect the NDP's fingerprints in eliminating the Winnipeg gang database?

Was it because the police were collecting too much information on street gangs whose members were, ahem, aboriginal in appearance at a time the NDP had adopted a hands-off policy on those gangs?

As luck would have it, the NDP is in the midst of a race for a new leader, and all three candidates went on CJOB this week to reveal their gang fighting strategies.

The first shocker was that the NDP has expunged the word "holistic" from their dictionary. When they took office in 1999 they declared that henceforth the government would be taking a "holistic" approach to gangs in contrast with the Conservative government's prosecutions approach. They intended to eliminate gangs by building floor hockey facilities and hiring more social workers. Group hug, anyone?

The Tories had put the Manitoba Warriors street gang out of business and sent their leaders, including the brother of NDP cabinet minister Robinson, to prison. The NDP's holistic approach has let the Manitoba Warriors regroup and new violent gangs to spring up.

You can see why they need to change the lexicon. The new buzzword is apparently "community."

Andrew Swan
wants to "build and strengthen our communities." He wants to "get communities involved" in fighting crime. How? By organizing citizens patrols.

He's "very interested in what police have to say" about fighting crime.

He wants more crown attorneys dedicated to fighting gangs.

And he wants "those at the top" to be targeted.

Oh, and if people don't feel safe in their communities, the NDP has a program for safety audits on their homes and free deadbolts for low-income people.

In other words, more of the same.

The Winnipeg Police Association thinks more-of-the-same is terrific strategy. They've endorsed Andrew Swan.

Greg Selinger knows who's to blame for the gang problem after 10 years of NDP rule---Gary Filmon.

The more social services a government provides, the greater the sense of security among the citizenry, he told CJOB. When Selinger was a social worker in the Nineties, he delivered social and recreational programs to communities like Gilbert Park. But throughout the 90's, he said, there was an "underinvestment" in social services.

So, blame Gary Filmon.

Selinger said the NDP has "done a lot" in 10 years of power, but, he conceded, obviously "not enough." So blame Gary Doer a little bit too.

His solution?

People need to be the "eyes and ears" of the police in the community. Police, for their part, need to get into the community through community policing and bike patrols.

And ("I am answering your question," he snapped at host Richard Cloutier), anyone committing a "violent crime against another citizen" should "pay the consequences."

But if we have to send them to jail, we have to provide them with training and education so they can enter the job market, he said.

In short, once a social worker, always a social worker.

Steve Ashton, still running against his own Party after 10 years of supporting it, said he would do things differently.

He wants to connect citizens to the police using the Point Douglas model in which community residents act as "eyes on the street" and call a special hotline to the police if they see any suspicious activity.

That's right. The way to fight gangs is to make a phone call and become No. 201 on the list of the calls in the queue.

He declared his own experience with the Taxi Board taught him a lot. Crime against cab drivers was cut 90 percent using cameras and shields, he said. We're not sure if that's a hint he supports surveillance cameras.

Then came the barrage: Community policing. Foot patrols in Manitoba Housing complexes. More police, concentrating them in high risk areas.

We're sure he meant to add kittens, puppies, rainbows and every other feel-good idea under the sun.

Oh, and he wants to recreate the Boston Miracle.

Here's how the Boston Globe described it:

"In 1996, police started Operation Ceasefire, which focused on identifying members of gangs, offering them ways out, and threatening them with federal sentences in prisons far away from their families if they continued to be violent. Clergy from the Boston TenPoint Coalition helped by offering services to gang members, such as job and education opportunities, to steer them from trouble."

There was an 18-month stretch when not a single youth in the city was killed. That's when people starting using the term "Boston Miracle." That's the part Ashton wants you to know.

What he doesn't want you to know is that after a few years of declining murder stats, the situation reversed. The number of gang killings began climbing each year. By 2005 the number of homicides had reached a 10-year high of 75.

Ashton's bottom line---he's supported every one of the NDP's failed strategies to fight gangs, but this time it's different. Uh huh.

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