The rash of armed robberies and violent crime in Newfoundland's larger city centres is growing so fast, it's become hard to remember one robbery from the next on a daily basis. Considering the size of our population, it can only be called an epidemic that probably won't show any signs of slowing down until the clock finally runs down for the one or more unfortunate bandits that didn't get away so easy.
Over the years our RNC have done a remarkable and commendable job, seeking out offenders and bringing them into our judicial system with little more than a scratch or bump on the head. This is an accomplishment that is not shared by larger police forces around the world, and, is rarely recognized by the public as an act of heroism, or bravery, but it most certainly is indeed.
As any seasoned police veteran will tell you, it takes more skill to bring a suspect into custody unharmed than it does to simply pull the trigger on their .40 Siggy sidearm and end it all right on the spot.
There was a time when armed robbers had more than just police to worry about. Although in Canada it has never been legal for a shopkeeper to have or use a firearm for protection, there are still dozens of cases across Canada where an armed bandit brought a knife to a gunfight and lost while running for their life with the loot. The hunter (robber) had become the hunted.
In 1977, a shockwave rippled through my small Toronto community of Willowdale when a neighbourhood kid, only 17 years old, known to be from a broken home, was gunned down in the streets (as he fled) by a gas station attendant he had robbed of only $75. The attendant was a new Canadian, unfamiliar with Canadian law, and felt he had the right to chase down the offender and blow his torso away with a 7.62 mm high-powered rifle. The Toronto police, at that time, chose not to press charges against the gas station attendant — this caused race riots (common at that time), and controversy that lasted for many months. In today’s world he would have been charged with second-degree murder, and in his home country the police probably would not even be involved. Times have changed a great deal in the last half century. The ethnicity of the shooter not charged was a factor, but the issues went much deeper.
In Newfoundland, the ease with which a bandit can rob a store or pharmacy and simply walk away is a problem that is getting far too out of control, with no easy answers or solutions for the hard-working frontline constables and investigators. We have seen first hand, time and time again, just how much effort the RNC puts into an investigation. When they are at a dead-end they do not hesitate to let us know and release as much information as possible by way of video and media to help resolve every crime. Sometimes it works out well, and other times the thief gets away...for the time being, at least.
When I first moved to Nefwoundland I was amazed at how polite and professional members of the RNC appeared to be when I was stopped for a routine traffic violation. In Toronto the police could have approched my vehicle (at 4 a.m.) with guns drawn and ordered the occupants out of the vehicle. Alone, late at night, in some situations, this is common procedure.
In St. John's the officer approached my window as if I was at a fast-food takeout diner. He advised me of my infraction, took my information, and the whole experience was a refreshing reminder to me of a Canada that once was, many decades ago.
A message that should be sent to every would-be bandit or thief in Newfoundland is "your time is running out." To date, the RNC has shown tremendous restraint in the use of deadly force, even when dealing with armed criminals. I have personal knowledge of an RNC constable who placed his own safety in jeopardy to preserve the life of a suspect who could just as easily have been shot dead where they stood. These are the brave men and women who make up the moral fabric that is our Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
As I said to the fine young constable who stopped my vehicle at 4 a.m., "you guys have a great city here in St. John's, and I sincerely hope it never starts drifting towards the state of our bigger mainland cities. This way of life is worth protecting, so please do what you can to help keep it that way." Those were my exact words.
Unfortunately, the day will come, sooner or later, when one of our gentle RNC officers will be forced to use their Sig Sauer in ways they never imagined they would ever need to. It's not fair to them (the police) or their families, who will also never be the same. All the training in the world can't prepare an officer who's been forced to take a life. The public may cheer (some at least) but it is truly devastating for all concerned. Life is precious.
For now, we can all be as thankful as I am that the RNC is still the most responsible, and heroic police force in Canada. Statistics are not necessary — the good shows in everything they do — and in some cases...what they don't do, until it becomes absolutely necessary, at which point, unknown to the a weapon wielding bandit, the RNC is more than ready!
My caveat for the violent thugs: your time is running out. Stay home where you're safe.