Thinking outside the box

Bonnie Belec
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Some St. John’s council hopefuls suggest ways to fight crime

When it comes to fighting crime, candidates seeking election to St. John’s council Sept. 24 have plenty of ideas, including fostering a sense of community, ensuring development doesn’t create pockets of crime and offering free self-defence classes.

Candidates in the St. John’s municipal elections shared some of their ideas of how to clean up crime in the city in an online poll. — Telegram photo illustration

“I think that the most applicable area for the city to address crime is in community development,” responded Ward 2 candidate Andrew Harvey in an online  survey conducted by The Telegram and the St. John’s Board of Trade.

“When neighbours talk to each other, we feel less isolated and powerless to deal with crime that is rampant in many areas of our city. Together, as a community, we are able to organize community watch programs and encourage consistent reporting of crimes. Ensuring adequate housing for those dealing with addictions issues is also an excellent way to encourage good mental and physical health,” he wrote.

Candidates united on some fronts

When asked what a council can do to combat crime, most of the 30 candidates vying for seats on St. John’s council said it would be to maintain a good relationship with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Department of Justice and to develop community groups such as Neighbourhood Watch.

The responses of Harvey and a few other candidates suggest they are thinking outside the box when it comes to addressing what has been described as a prosperity-driven increase in criminal activity in the capital city.

Advisory committee suggested

A drive-by shooting in the Kenmount Terrace area this summer that was linked to organized crime, prostitution in the downtown core, a fatal beating on Tessier Place in March, as well as concerns by the George Street Association about crime levels and gang-related violence on the street have led to the formation of a mayor’s advisory committee on crime.

“It will be composed of organizations and individuals who have expertise in this area and will make recommendations and work with the RNC to combat crime. I think this committee will have a major impact on crime,” Mayor Dennis O’Keefe wrote in his response to the survey.

The advisory committee and its terms of reference were unanimously approved in July, but because of summer holidays and the upcoming election, members have not yet been picked.

Ward 2 candidate Jonathan Galgay said he was a strong advocate for the creation of the committee.

“I recognize that preventing crime requires a comprehensive approach involving prevention, intervention, enforcement and evaluation to ensure an integrated delivery of crime prevention programs for the City of St. John’s,” Galgay wrote.

Several of the candidates in the online survey referred to the advisory committee and suggested it was a good place to start, but it doesn’t go far enough.

Councillor-at-large candidate Lionel West also said working with law enforcement agencies does help, but city staff must keep a close eye on how developments are built.

“Through planning and development, ensure the city is not designed in such a manner that crime-induced areas are created. (For example) poor lighting, accumulated garbage, derelict buildings,” West wrote.

Ward 4 candidate Tracy Holmes said establishing outreach programs to offer assistance to people living in high-risk conditions would help, as would improving public awareness about crime and social issues.

“Ignorance doesn’t solve problems. I would also like to see council assisting in the provision of free or by donation self-defence classes. These are some of the measures that can be taken,” Holmes wrote.

Councillor-at-large candidate Tom Badcock suggests looking at the deep-rooted issues of crime.

“First we need to address the cause and not the results. Investigate why crimes are occurring and who are committing the crimes. Then deal with those issues. In the meantime, more cameras, encourage Neighbourhood Watches, and lobby the next levels of government to mete out harsher sentences to repeat offenders,” Badcock wrote.

Ward 3 candidate Walter Harding and Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary, who is running for mayor, both made references to Tessier Place, where residents lived in fear for close to two years before a man was beaten and subsequently died from his injuries.

Plagued by violence

The area was plagued by violence and illicit drug use, and residents of the downtown neighbourhood were fed up complaining to the RNC and the city.

O’Leary set up a meeting with several community groups and the RNC to help the neighbourhood get back on its feet.

“At minimal cost, those people were able to make their neighbourhood safer for themselves and their children,” she wrote.

Harding, who attended that meeting, said it’s a prime example of how people can take back their neighbourhoods.

“Tessier Place and the surrounding area has benefited from such partnerships and community involvement, and to their credit, Tessier Place residents simply took it upon themselves to make their neighbourhood safer,” Harding wrote.

“I feel as a council we should engage residents and encourage them to work with all community resources available to ensure our city is as safe as possible. The resources are there and the commitment is there.

“We simply have to do our utmost to partner the two and need not look any further than Tessier Place residents to gauge successes that come from doing so.”

Last week, The Telegram sent all 30 St. John’s candidates a link to an online survey to complete.

A joint project of The Telegram and the Board of Trade, it polled candidates on 15 key issues. Ward 5 incumbent Wally Collins was the only one who didn’t respond.

In the coming days, The Telegram will publish stories outlining candidates’ positions on those issues.

To see their complete survey responses, click here.

Organizations: The Telegram, Board of Trade, Department of Justice George Street Association

Geographic location: Tessier Place

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Recent comments

  • lisa
    September 22, 2013 - 16:00

    I agree with Kent below. I also question what qualifications make them suitable for politics. And many times they misrepresent themselves, as in the case of Walter Harding Ward 3, who describes his work experience as Sales and Marketing, when he is a service person on a car parts counter. If he's misrepresenting that, what else will he gloss over should he win his riding?

  • Kent
    September 18, 2013 - 07:25

    Frankly, I find city councilors to be useless... Over the past ten years I have had occasion to email three of them with a complaint of one sort or another. The response I got in all cases was "Let me look into it and I’ll get back to you"... None of them ever did get back to me. It makes me wonder just how effective these people really are, and whether they have any influence at all in the running of the city. It seems to me that this is nothing more than a lucrative part-time job for most of them. The only time they get a little vocal is when an election is coming, and their part-time gig is possibly in jeopardy. Yes, then they are all ears. I think there are way too many of them for a city the size of St. John’s.