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Catch and release

Jody Vance: There’s a growing willingness among elected officials to admit crime is getting worse in our cities. The next step – doing something about it – needs to happen much faster.
(Margarita Young/Shutterstock)

Today’s column is stocked with honest questions that law-abiding citizens, deserve the answers to.

Headlines and statistics show that crime is spiking in our province, and in particular Metro Vancouver. Most of us gasped at the news of a record 60 stranger assaults over the Family Day long weekend. On the heels of that, a swarming attack in Yaletown, a man exposing himself to elementary school children, and a jogger sexually assaulted in Pacific Spirit Park.

Listen closely to the police warnings, requests for dash cam or doorbell videos, and hear the frustration bubbling beneath the surface:

“The suspect is known to police.”

When will that be enough to be kept off the streets? How many strikes until a criminal is held away from society until the judicial process is complete?

When will the words “repeat offender” bring meaningful consequences?

How many targeted shootings, assaults, or robberies by those with criminal records shortens the path to punishment?

This entire Middle could be questions about revolving doors, and the hoops police and Crown must jump through to see justice served. Today, the inmates are running the place…by walking out the front door.

This Middle is a challenge to find a better way to see dangerous offenders re-enter society in a way that is safe for that community.

Driven by anger, some are calling for a public piece to punishment, something like “name and shame,” as additional deterrent.

Too harsh? Perhaps. Frustrated? Absolutely.

That frustration comes from the feeling that the rights of the perpetrator are held in higher regard than those of victims.

Where is line for being picked up, charged, and (key word here) held? Caught smashing windows on businesses? Nope. Stealing cars? No. Break-ins? Nada. Home invasions in broad daylight? Not even sure of this!

Sure, elected officials are aware. They are holding “discussions.” Last week, federal, provincial, and territorial ministers met to discuss what must improve; that’s the good news. On the table, among other things, they tackled initiatives and best practices in reducing backlogs and delays in our court system. Acknowledging the need to modernize, digitize, and unplug the clog that grew over COVID.

BC was represented by Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, and and Attorney General David Eby, who said the following:

“Keeping our neighbourhoods and communities safe is fundamental to providing an environment for people to thrive, grow and prosper across B.C. and the country. Through our collaborative efforts at all levels of government we are tackling important issues like gun and gang violence with a comprehensive approach that includes investments in prevention and community safety initiatives and meeting the policing needs of our communities. I look forward to our continued work.”

Words we need to hear, but this must be actionable - STAT.

Criminals clearly have adapted to the workings of our justice system and have found ways to game it. The call to see our system adjust and counter needs to be loud.

Those who choose the path of head-in-sand denial of escalating crime, take note: it’s no longer acceptable to punt this pubic safety football further downfield. The public’s mood has changed.

Citizens deserve better and, frankly, law enforcement and those who work in our justice system deserve better.

The days of “offend and release” must end.