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Areas of British Columbia with large reductions in violent crime

According to the BC government’s own compilation of crime data, some areas of the province have experienced massive reductions in violent crime.

Look at what happened to violent offences in Prince George during the past ten years. The population decreased by 2% – 1,552 people – during this period. But there was a 43% decrease in violent offences:

  • 2006          2,734
  • 2007          2,516
  • 2008          1,902
  • 2009          2,063
  • 2010          2,275
  • 2011          2,205
  • 2012          2,192
  • 2013          1,819
  • 2014          1,584
  • 2015          1,538

What is going on here? What is this RCMP detachment doing? What is the municipality doing?  What is the community doing? It would be interesting to figure out is happening.

Here is Kelowna. Their population increased by 13%, 14,344 people, over the last decade. But they experienced a 55% decrease in violent crime:

  • 2006         2,479
  • 2007         2,313
  • 2008         2,068
  • 2009         2,126
  • 2010         2,090
  • 2011         1,942
  • 2012         1,806
  • 2013         1,835
  • 2014         1,415
  • 2015         1,097

Here is Nanaimo. Their population grew by 12%, or 9,755 people. But they experienced a 49% decrease in violent crime:

  • 2006         2,225
  • 2007         1,737
  • 2008         1,632
  • 2009         1,636
  • 2010         1,693
  • 2011         1,403
  • 2012         1,429
  • 2013         1,422
  • 2014         1,127
  • 2015         1,134

New Westminster has a municipal police department (as compared to an RCMP detachment). Their population increased by 18%, that’s 11,169 new residents. They experienced a 39% decrease in violent crime:

  • 2006         1,437
  • 2007         1,314
  • 2008         1,204
  • 2009         1,058
  • 2010         1,122
  • 2011         939
  • 2012         1,014
  • 2013         953
  • 2014         874
  • 2015         876

Vancouver, another municipal police department, experienced an 8% increase in population (49,569 more people). But violent offences in the city dropped by 27%:

  • 2006         11,015
  • 2007         10,769
  • 2008         10,858
  • 2009         10,838
  • 2010         10,442
  • 2011         10,055
  • 2012         9,218
  • 2013         8,832
  • 2014         8,221
  • 2015         8,007

Burnaby, Campbell River, Comox, Delta, Duncan, Kamloops are some of the other cities and towns that saw large drops in violent crime.

According to the definitions and data qualifiers section of the document: “Violent crimes include the offences of homicide, attempted murder, sexual and non-sexual assault, sexual offences against children, abduction, forcible confinement or kidnapping, firearms, robbery, criminal harassment, extortion, uttering threats, and threatening or harassing phone calls and other violent offences.”

Don’t buy property in the City of Victoria

Mayor Lisa Helps and Councillor Chris Coleman are putting the following motion before the Committee of the Whole on April 6th. It’s Item #16 on the agenda:

Recommendation: That Council amend the Streets and Traffic Bylaw to add Section 84(3) as follows: Section 84(3) An exemption to the provisions of this section shall occur when the CMHC vacancy rate for Victoria is at• 3% or lower. When the exemption is in place, people sleeping in their vehicles must not park their vehicles on any street for the purposes of sleeping before 7pm and must not remain parked on any street for the purposes of sleeping after 7am.

Want to know what this will look like?  Take all the derelict boats from the Gorge waterway, multiply by 100 and put them in Fairfield, Rockland, James Bay, North Park, Oaklands, Vic West and downtown. In a city still healing from the crime and violence of tent city, it is incredible that a proposal would be put forward to enable camping on Burdett Avenue and other city streets. These campers will be even closer to houses and apartment buildings than tent city.

What are the dangers? Disposal of human feces, for starters. Noise complaints. Fire hazards (open flame) from candles and portable stoves. Vehicle engines left running all night. Use of loud generators in residential neighbourhoods. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Consumption of alcohol and drugs inside cars. Care and control of a vehicle while impaired. Drug trafficking in and around vehicles. Fatal drug overdoses.  Hoarders and other people with serious mental health problems living inside cars. Car cities – the new “tent city” – popping up throughout Victoria. CarBnB. Extra wake-ups for bylaw and police. A national incentive for every predatory criminal with a vehicle to travel here.  Those are a few concerns off the top of my head. But none of these issues are mentioned in the report from Mayor Helps and Councillor Coleman.

The proposal is based on a Facebook poll with eight responses.  Look at the response from “male 05”:

Oh yeah- my buddy [name removed] was sleeping in his truck-camper (the carry-along kind in the box of the truck), in the parking lot of [name removed] after hosting the Thursday night jam they have there. He was woken up by the cops at 1am as well and told that he had to move along- difficult to do when you’ve been hosting a jam for free beer essentially. He had to go into the hotel lobby with the cops to confirm that he had been working there, and that they knew he was sleeping in the parking lot and were ok with it. He was informed by the cops that if they found him there again he would be ticketed and possibly towed for ‘drinking and driving’ Again, in spite of the fact that the hotel was ok with him being there

Taking this third-hand account at face value, a drunk musician parked overnight on private property.  Police used discretion, issued a warning, and did not investigate him for care and control of a vehicle while impaired by alcohol. Is this truly a good reason to allow anyone to live in cars on public streets?

This proposal reinforces the uncertainty that has been felt by residents and businesses for a long time. No one in Victoria knows what will happen to the streets, parks and schools in their neighbourhoods. It is completely unpredictable.  Not just on a five year timeline, or a one year timeline, but even on a month-to-month basis.

And this is why I always say to anyone who asks: “Don’t buy property in the City of Victoria.”

Do BC nurses face higher risk of violence than law enforcement?

This sponsored content in the Times-Colonist is bit misleading. Or perhaps a kinder way to say it would be “poorly worded”:

In the past decade, B.C. nurses experienced approximately 2862 time-loss injuries from violence, which were often the result of being kicked, hit or beaten by patients or residents of the facilities they work in. What’s perhaps more striking, though, is the fact that these nurses are at greater risk of injury from workplace violence than law enforcement and security workers.

Although violence is commonly associated with jobs in security and law enforcement, occupations in this field made up just 14 percent of all injuries that resulted from workplace violence, while nurses (including aides and health care assistants) accounted for more than 40 percent.

There are quite a few problems with comparing occupations like this. For example, one major issue is that these statistics only include a fraction of the law enforcement officers working in British Columbia. The RCMP officers from E Division are not included. These police officers from E Division – all of whom work in British Columbia – fall under the Canadian Labour Code rather than the BC Workers Compensation Act.

About a third of all RCMP officers work in E Division.  There are 18,000+ officers in the RCMP which would mean about 6000 RCMP officers in British Columbia. Obviously this creates a big gap in the WorkSafeBC data.

Testifying by video conference

This is a post that I’m going to try to update over time with new case law.

I saw this article on the Toronto Star – Prosecutor blames Toronto police vacation plans as impaired driving case collapses:

She explained in court that a trial notification for next month’s trial had been sent to Toronto police on June 23, 2016, but it was only in January that the officer in charge of the case emailed Kromm to say he didn’t believe many of the officers requested to testify were necessary.

“I told him there was a charter application before the court and it was my opinion that those officers were necessary and I required them to be here for trial,” Kromm told Horkins, according to a court recording obtained by the Star.

She said she then received a further email informing her that two of the officers were “unavailable for trial because they were going on vacation to Florida.”

One point that could have saved these charges from being stayed was Section 714.2(1) of the Criminal Code:

714.2 (1) A court shall receive evidence given by a witness outside Canada by means of technology that permits the witness to testify in the virtual presence of the parties and the court unless one of the parties satisfies the court that the reception of such testimony would be contrary to the principles of fundamental justice.

This section mandates the Court to receive testimony from an out-of-country witness, unless Defence or Crown can show it is contrary to the principles of fundamental justice (ie. unfair). This appears to have been an option for the prosecutor and the judge in the case above. Or, if you give 714.2(1) a strict interpretation, it was not an option but a requirement.

Here are some cases where the witness was permitted to testify pursuant to 714.2(1) of the Criminal Code. It’s worth noting that, in every case I could find, out of country witnesses were  allowed to testify pursuant to 714.2(1) of the Code:

Witness allowed – R. v. Galandie, 2008 BCPC 6

Witness allowed – R. v. D’Entremont, 2009 ABPC 374

Witness allowed – R. v. Turner, 2002 BCSC 1135

Witness allowed – R. v Al-Enzi, 2017 ONSC 304

Witness allowed – R. v. Schertzer, 2010 ONSC 6686

Witness allowed – R v Nguyen, 2015 SKQB 382

Witness allowed – R v Singh, 2015 ONSC 6823

Witness allowed – R. v. M.M., 2012 ABPC 73

Witness allowed – R. v. Stevenson, 2012 BCSC 800

If the witness is located inside Canada, but away from the location of where court proceedings are being held, then 714.1 of the Criminal Code allows for a witness to testify by video conference:

714.1 A court may order that a witness in Canada give evidence by means of technology that permits the witness to testify elsewhere in Canada in the virtual presence of the parties and the court, if the court is of the opinion that it would be appropriate in all the circumstances, including

(a) the location and personal circumstances of the witness;

(b) the costs that would be incurred if the witness had to be physically present; and

(c) the nature of the witness’ anticipated evidence.

Under this section, the courts have been generally open to some witnesses testifying by video conference, where there is a good reason for it. But they have not been inclined to allow police officers or correctional officers inside Canada to testify remotely. Here are a few cases. I hope to update these over time:

Officer denied – R. v. Munro, 2009 YKTC 125 (CanLII)

Officer denied – R. v. Fleury, 2004 SKPC 53 (CanLII)

Officer denied – R. v. Ross, 2007 BCPC 244 (CanLII)

Officer denied – R. v. Munro, 2009 YKTC 125 (CanLII)

Officers allowed – R. v. Kim MacNearney and Craig MacNearney, 2010 NWTSC 77 (CanLII)

Videoconference capabilities have improved since these sections of the Criminal Code were introduced in 1999. It is likely they will get even better in the future.

Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Yesterday Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) ceased to exist. In its place is a new organization called Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP).

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition was narrow, focused, driven.  Its philosophy and its messaging was well thought out. It had intellectual rigour. It changed how the world viewed the War on Drugs.

Law Enforcement Action Partnership is more broad, tentative, searching. It is brand new. There is potential for it to become more political and less independent. But it could also accomplish great things. Only time will tell.

I am in the process of stepping down from LEAP. I say “in the process” because after eight years as a speaker, and six years as a board member, it is not easy to untangle myself. For the past year and a half, I was also the treasurer of LEAP. This involved a lot of behind the scenes work  and significant responsibility in terms of financial oversight and internal reform of the organization. Inge Fryklund – bless her heart – will now carry on these efforts.

Some of my proudest accomplishments with LEAP: Testifying before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Winning my human rights case. Helping LEAP obtain consultative status with the United Nations. Serving as the founding president of LEAP’s Canadian branch. There were many other great moments but those are a few that stand out.

I’m not against the idea of LEAP evolving. But this next step of the journey was not for me. These days I am more focused on my family, and my career.

My departure from LEAP is also about the need for me to be able to communicate with fierce independence. I have some things to say about the justice system. I don’t want anything I am saying or writing to be misconstrued as the official views of Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

I am grateful to many folks at LEAP for the past eight years. Jack Cole, Peter Christ, Steve Finlay, Neill Franklin, Leigh Maddox, Inge Fryklund, Steve Downing, Terry Nelson, Tony Ryan, Rick Van Wickler, Diane Goldstein, Norm Stamper, Randie Long, Dan Mulligan, John Anderson. Jerry Paradis (rest in peace). The current and past staff of LEAP, including Shaleen Title, Tom Angell, Kristen Daley, Antoinette O’Neil, Bill Fried, Darby Beck, Mikayla Hellwich, Lindsay Akin, Amos Irwin and Roshun Shah. Apologies if I missed anyone. Neil Woods replaced me on the Board of Directors – I am very happy about this and it made my decision to step down much easier.

I learned so much from the thousands of volunteer hours that I dedicated to LEAP.  And I wish the very best for LEAP 2.0 as it moves forward.