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Halifax, NS | Sat, May 24th, 2008

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Our fears are real
Report compiles overwhelming evidence of city’s violence problem

A Halifax police officer collects evidence outside an Argyle Street bar where American sailor Damon Crooks was stabbed to death in November 2006. (INGRID BULMER / Staff)

A Dartmouth gas station clerk pulls her shirt collar away to show where her throat was slit when she was raped while working the overnight shift last summer. (Christian Laforce / Staff)

Police investigate the murder of Glenn Brian Bourgeois on Maynard Street in Halifax last July. (INGRID BULMER / Staff)


Here are key recommendations from the report on the mayor’s roundtable on violence, which was released at Halifax city hall Friday.

Halifax Regional Municipality should play a more significant role in the lives of troubled youth and provide help to their families.

•Make city recreational centres/programs more available and affordable.

•The municipality should encourage the establishment of a drug treatment court to help address the illicit drug trade.

•City leaders should make public safety a priority in any urban design changes for Halifax’s downtown.

•Metro Transit should consider readjusting night schedules to accommodate university students and other young people making their way home from the downtown core.

•Municipal government "must show greater leadership in the public safety issues of minorities," who are often victims.

•The city needs to address affordable housing and help get the disenfranchised in society into "safe housing stock."

•Consideration should be given "to policies and strategies for reducing the street sex trade."

•The municipality should revamp its race relations advisory committee to give it teeth and a clear set of achievable goals.

•City hall needs to "achieve better balance in media accounts of crime" in order to communicate "the positives" about the municipality’s anti-crime efforts.


The following groups are more likely to be victims of violent crime in Halifax Regional Municipality:

•Those who perceive their neighbourhood as a high-risk area are 2.9 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than those living outside high-risk areas

•Urban core residents (2.5 times)

•Minorities (2.2 times)

•People who own their own homes (2.3)

•People who frequent bars or clubs (2.1)

Source: The Roundtable on Violence and Public Safety in HRM: A Report to the Mayor 2008

Halifax’s violence problem is real, says a wide-ranging report on crime in the metro area.

"This isn’t a figment of someone’s imagination," Dalhousie University criminologist Don Clairmont told regional councillors Friday.

» Click here to read the report
» Click here to go to the Mayor's Roundtable on Violence website
» Clairmont: Race relations committee must work on tough issues

He said the 650-page report shows "overwhelming" evidence of a "serious problem of violence and public safety in HRM."

Mr. Clairmont recommends developing a full-time public safety co-ordinator, improving race relations and broadening the responsibilities of Halifax’s police forces as the first steps to curb violent crime.

The director of the Atlantic Institute of Criminology spent some 1,500 hours compiling the $68,000 report, which includes 64 recommendations that will be considered by council.

Much of the information comes from last year’s roundtable on violence, as well as a series of community meetings, stakeholder discussions, a 1,200-person phone poll and 2,350 written surveys.

Mr. Clairmont said there is a lack of confidence in municipal council to enact change on public safety issues. He said there is also an urgent need to revamp the city’s community and race relations advisory committee.

He recommended hiring a full-time public safety co-ordinator who will report to the mayor. He said the city should also appoint a safety advisory committee made up of councillors, police and representatives from minority and volunteer organizations.

Finally, Mr. Clairmont suggested Halifax Regional Police and RCMP establish community safety officers in high-risk, high-crime communities.

Those are the immediate steps that need to be taken, he said. There are dozens of others that could improve the city’s crime rate and the public’s perception of Halifax as a dangerous city.

The mayor praised the report and said he’s eager to look at implementing the primary recommendations. But, he added, that will take time and money.

"It’s a very powerful, intense document," Peter Kelly said. "We cannot not respond to it.

"But the funds are not there. The funds have to be there."

Council confirmed earlier this week that no money was set aside in city hall’s 2008-09 budget to enact the report’s recommendations.

"We need to make sure that this comes back to council with some very clear direction for discussion," Mr. Kelly said.

Council will then work with the provincial and federal governments to hopefully come up with the money needed to make the necessary changes, he said.

When asked if he will be pushing the recommendations on council, Mr. Kelly said he "shouldn’t have to arm-twist anybody."

"It should be a common-sense approach that we must need it, let’s get it done."

While there’s no word on funding, some of the work needed to implement some of the recommendations is already underway, Halifax Regional Police Chief Frank Beazley said.

The city has already approved Chief Beazley’s request for 24 new officers, all of whom will be slotted into north and east Dartmouth and the Fairview and Spryfield areas of Halifax, he said. As well, the province has approved 14 new RCMP officers for all of Halifax Regional Municipality.

The chief pointed out that police have already put cops back on the beat in Halifax in the downtown and uptown areas, which has helped lower the numbers.

"We’ve been doing a ton of crime analysis and then going out into what I call hot spots, and going into these high-crime areas," he said. "That’s why you’re seeing the crime starting to drop, because of the (new) style of policing and working with the communities."

The Mounties are still going over the report and had no comment Friday, RCMP spokesman Cpl. Joe Taplin said.

Mr. Kelly said "an accumulation of events in a very short time" led the city to organize the roundtable discussions that fuelled the report.

The violence came to a head Nov. 4, 2006, when American sailor Damon Crooks was stabbed to death outside a downtown Halifax nightclub.

That was barely a week after two violent swarmings at Pizza Corner, where the city later installed surveillance cameras.

When contacted Friday, Corwin Gooden, half-brother to Mr. Crooks, said he didn’t want to comment until he’d had a chance to read through the report.

Chief Beazley pointed out that the municipality’s crime rate has dropped over the past three years, yet the public is more worried than ever about safety.

"Nobody denies that the violent crime for a certain period was going up," he said.

But with more beat cops in the downtown and uptown areas, Chief Beazley said, robberies in peninsular Halifax have dropped in the first quarter of this year by 64 per cent over the same period last year.

Justice Minister Cecil Clarke, who called the report a "positive next step," said no one wants country-leading statistics when it comes to crime.

"I do accept that we have challenges here," Mr. Clarke told reporters. "But more importantly, we have the power of the partnerships that have come together. We will take the results of this latest study and we’ll put it into action as part of our wider and broader consultation."

Cole Harbour resident Mark Starratt knows first-hand of Halifax’s problem with violence.

"Certainly it’s real," he said Friday. "We have a bad reputation."

Mr. Starratt’s teenage son was swarmed and beaten in the doorway of his home while doling out Halloween candy in 2006. The culprits were never caught, he said.

Since the incident, Mr. Starratt hasn’t seen any more police in his neighbourhood, either patrolling the streets or the pathways near Cole Harbour Place and surrounding areas where other teens have been beaten up.

He wanted to see more police officers and specific plans to prevent violent crime, especially swarmings.

"They’re writing a big document that doesn’t do a darn bit of good towards anything," Mr. Starratt said.

"What’s in the report? An outline or a program that they could get to perhaps down the road. They spend so much time talking about it that nothing is ever going to happen, or if it does, by the time they implement it, it’s useless programs.

"Programs, programs, programs — do something."




voiceofreality wrote:
The first thing that needs to be done is to fire Chief Beazley and whoever is at the top of the Mounties for this area. They should be embarrassed it took a study to point this out and then have the nerve to say "we can't afford it." No, not just embarrassed - cited for a dereliction to duty. What were they spending money on already??? HRMPD just got a million dollar increase in budget and according to Beazley's bragging, they are raking in money faster than the Sopranos on traffic harassments. It's definitely time for a new person in charge, these ones are obviously incompetent.

g00gp99 wrote:
in case you didn't read my post from yesterday,i stated that any idiot who wastes 1,000's of bucks,to put out a 650 page report telling us that the crime in halifax,and areas are soaring,ought to have their heads examined.anyone living here knows that,now fix the damn trouble.never mind spending more tax dollars on stupid papers,get the cops more people.step up patrols to problem areas,take these crooks down.there is way too much crap on the streets in hrm,time to clean house.if the courts won't help put a damper on things,well it is up to us decent folk to do it.all the police have to do is supply the space in their cells.i for one would love the chance to get this garbage off the streets,but then i would go to jail.i think that maybe half the citie's people should be out looking at these areas that are a concewrn to all.

StraightUp wrote:
Council is too busy worrying about outbidding Moncton for the next "big" concert to truly focus its energy on the safety of our citizens. Moncton gets better concerts (whooppee!), has less violent crime, and has far better facilities for kids and families (which just might help curb the crime rate!!). Looks like we're 0 for 3. There are no excuses. HRM should be the jewel in the Maritime crown, but we are far too tarnished at present to hold that honour. I hope we can once again be the city I used to commonly describe as "the best place in Canada to raise your kids."

fmarsland wrote:
Uh. Really? Do you think? Wow. How many years ago could this have been published? Did Mr. Kelly really require this "intense" document to open his eyes? Probably. That's most of the problem right there. A 68K study? Anyone with a pulse paying even the slightest attention to the happenings in HRM over the last 10 years could have reported this to the mayor for the price of a hot cup of coffee.

arb wrote:
Handling the crime elevation in Halifax is a great thing and it should be done, however, remember that if the crime rate in Halifax decreases it is not an indication that the problem is solved - everywhere. The crime rate in the surrounding areas will increase because the "bad guys" will look for, and possibly find, a new venue for their nasty deeds. The immediate surrounding areas of HRM will become the target. While the problem is solved for one area, it becomes the problem of another area. To increase crime awareness and increase RCMP numbers throughout the entire province, according to the requirements, would also be beneficial to the residents of and the visitors to our province. Look after Halifax but don't forget the rest of the province. Our Premier should be following the example of Peter Kelly and pay attention to everyone so that dastardly deeds everywhere are covered. Cameras, RCMP officers,and anything else that is required to protect the tax payers and the visitors to our province should be put into place and show that Nova Scotians can, and do, protect our province.

JohnA wrote:
First of all almost every city cop is a throw away from the R.C.M.P. What,s that tell you.Then we have the so called revitlization of Gottigen. St.Look at it,an open drug market with cop,s driving by doing nothing.It,s time some people in power open there eye,s and ear,s.Sad,because this city used to be a place you would tell someone to visit,not anymore.

Halifaxers wrote:
A $68,000 study? I can't believe the idiot's we have running this fine city of ours needed to pay that kind of money to to realize that we have a problem here. I'm no expert and I'm not here to tell anyone how to fix the problem but lets be honest, actions speak louder than words. Lets see some action. Maybe it's time to thumb through some resumes and get some new blood in charge of things because obviously what we have in place (police chief, Mayor Etc.) just aren't up to the task so it seems.

Robert22 wrote:
What is truly frightening is that the very people whose job it is to 'protect & serve' are not held to the same level of accountability as the rest of us. The Chief of Police appears incompetent. The Mayor requires a study to realize 'our fears are real'. And the average cop walks away from drinking & driving with a conditional discharge. And the judge tells him to 'try to stay away from alcohol'. It's a dog's breakfast from top to bottom.

cariboudave wrote:
I only have one question. Why the HELL was no money set aside in city hall’s 2008-09 budget to enact the report’s recommendations? Answer? Because they plan to use bandages instead of surgery. Good luck Halifax! I'll be sure to warn everyone I know NOT to move there!

Halifax_Guy wrote:
We have Primates running City Hall.

BC wrote:
All the studies in the world are not going to change anything. They are nothing but a another form of political retoric and a waste of money. The problem is, the so called young offenders laws, the bleeding heart judges that give out the stupidest of restrictions, which no one pays any attention to, and the federal law makers. Take a good look at the people in the federal government, do you really think they are capable of enacting sensible laws. Kelly cannot change any of these laws, or have enough clout to get them changed. He will just spend dollar after dollar to make it look like he is doing something, he can do nothing else. We need elected judges, federal laws that protect the public and victims instead of the criminals. It's the feds that need a good ass kicking to get things changed.

Scott from NS wrote:
Absolutely ridiculous!!!! Stupid, stupid, stupid!!! Sending mailout surveys and phone surveys to get a true rating of risk as compared to other towns/cities in the country? All that gives you is people's perception of the situation, not a real risk analysis. Send these people to Toronto, Vancover, Winnipeg on the poorer side of town and you'll find that their perception of Halifax's safety will change in a hurry. We seem to be stuck in this "touchy, feely" paradigm in this province, why deal in facts when you can make decisions based on how people "feel".

halinative wrote:
As I was driving down Gottigen street last night (Friday)I was surprised that I did not see the usual people hanging out on the corners, rumors say dealing drugs. As I drove a little further up I spotted 2 officers walking the beat. This was good to see.

jaker wrote:
can't wait for municipal election to get rid of mayor kelly. anyone who votes for this clown and his incompetent cronies is a vote AGAINST halifax. this province and city will be better off when we vote out rodney macdonald as well. too bad the opposition liberals didn't have a back-bone and voted against the recent budget. when this city and province stop electing bumbling idiots we will be better off.

nova_man wrote: much as I would like to agree with you, I have to disagree because primates have the upper hand on intelligence.

My Name is Jim Johnson I Come from Wi wrote:
HRM is more concerned with having DEXTER Construction take the garbage off our streets than the POLICE taking the "garbage " off our streets. I wonder if that is because Dexter/ Municiple gives so much to Kellys and various councillors election campaigns? You don't count in HRM unless you are giving money to a politian.



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