Government focuses on crime, not prevention

Someone broke into Crime Prevention Yukon on the weekend. “That’s the irony,” said executive director Ryn Bunicich on Wednesday.

Someone broke into Crime Prevention Yukon on the weekend.

“That’s the irony,” said executive director Ryn Bunicich on Wednesday.

Break and enters in the territory are double the national average, he said, citing recent information from Statistics Canada.

“And we are four times as likely to be assaulted in the Yukon as anywhere else in Canada.”

Bunicich doesn’t want to create “fear and panic,” he said.

“We all feel so safe and happy in the Yukon.

“But those statistics are extremely high, and those number are being marginalized.”

Every year the Yukon government spends millions on its bureau of statistics, said Bunicich.

“It spits out statistics on everything,” he said.

“But since 2004, (the bureau) has not publicized any statistics on crime in the Yukon.”

In 2004, the RCMP moved to a different software program, said the bureau’s senior information officer Gary Brown.

It was no longer possible to access local stats, he said.

“We’ve been trying to get them out of the (RCMP’s) head office, but so far we’ve had no luck.”

Everyone in the Yukon is at risk, said Bunicich.

In many cases, the risk is much greater than elsewhere in Canada.

“And I don’t think it’s fair if we do not make these people aware so they can protect themselves,” he said.

“I don’t think the way to do it is just keep quiet about it and not do anything.”

In its annual plan, the Justice department has “no specifics on crime prevention and certainly no mention about how it’s going to combat crime in the Yukon,” said Bunicich.

It always talks about policing and prisons, he said.

“Crime prevention is definitely not in focus.”

Justice spends about $15 million a year on policing and another $8 million on corrections, including the jail, said crime prevention and policing director Lesley Carberry.

But there is money for crime prevention, she said.

Justice works closely with the National Crime Prevention Centre and helps it administer funds, said Carberry.

It also acts as a secretariat for the crime prevention and victim services trust fund, which administers about $200,000 a year in funding to community-based groups.

Over the last decade, it has issued more than $2.5 million.

“We track all the projects that we fund; we work with the proponents on their proposals, how they implement the projects and how they assess them,” said Carberry.

They are designed to support victims of crime, reduce the incidence of crime, address its root causes and prevent violence against women and children through public education, she said.

“We have a listing of all the projects we have ever funded, and it’s extensive — it’s in virtually every community in the Yukon,” said Carberry.

But the Yukon lacks an overall crime-prevention plan, said Bunicich, whose organization works closely with Justice.

“The government doesn’t really have a plan as to how to go about our high crime numbers and the crime problems we have here, except for the old-school, reactive, punitive measures,” he said.

The territory’s crime problems are so massive that nobody is interested in doing anything about it, said Bunicich.

“Because it doesn’t give you a product in the short term,” he said.

“A deep-rooted social problem like crime in the community is not something that you can attack and expect to see results within a year.”

After one year, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation, which relies on tips from neighbours to evict suspected drug dealers, is claiming success, said Bunicich.

“They’re able to claim victory on crime by just tallying up the number of people they evicted and the people they were able to deter at the moment.”

But it hasn’t solved anything, he said.

“It’s the old kind of policing — a reactive measure where you wait until there’s trouble and then, based on complaints, you give someone a warning or kick them out.

“But unless they disappear into thin air, that doesn’t solve the problem.”

It just moves it elsewhere, said Bunicich.

“I don’t know to what end the results of a program like that are helping our community be safer.”

The Safer Communities legislation is not intended to address the root of the problem, said Carberry.

“It’s just one tool in a whole toolkit.”

It’s a victim-based piece of legislation intended to increase a lack of tolerance for one person, in one house, on one street, one neighbourhood at a time, she said.

“And one year later, we are seeing an increasing lack of tolerance,” she said.

Crime prevention demands several strategies, added Carberry.

There are harm-reduction strategies that include things like needle exchanges; there are social development strategies that look at youth and children and how to address the root of crime through early intervention, and there are preventative strategies, she said.

Next week, Justice is releasing a crime prevention strategy for businesses that will include suggestions like putting lights over doors to deter break and enters, she added.

Crime Prevention Yukon was not included in developing this strategy. It was created by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, Justice, the RCMP and several other organizations.

But everyone needs to work together, said Bunicich.

“Crime prevention is a huge process and I know the Yukon government is involved in a lot of processes,” he said.

“I’m not blaming the government,” he said.

“But the government should be playing a leading role, to pull everything together —  what is needed to really address the problems of crime that we have here.

“The best way for us to move forward is for all of us to be aware of the problems in the Yukon and find solutions together.”

The most effective way to prevent crime is ensuring healthier children, stronger families, better schools and more cohesive communities, said Bunicich.

We must find deterrents to crime rather than simply react after crime has happened, he said.

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