Monday, November 3, 2008

An insightful column ~ Is Fantino starting to get "it"?

My comments to the author are at the end.MJM

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Toronto Sun

Seeding hope among youth

Besides getting tough on hoods we have to deal with the root cause of crime, Fantino says

Last Updated: 3rd November 2008, 4:09am

(The Canadian Press files)
(The Canadian Press files)

Even the top crime fighter in the province doesn't believe more law and order will stop the rain of bullets on our city.

Instead, says OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino, we have to go right back to the cradle.

Our current problems, he believes, can be traced back to a society that has rejected old fashioned values of family, community and religion.

"The lure of money and the whole glamour of gangs, guns and drugs is, for some young people who have lost their way, a replacement for what's missing in their lives," Fantino argues.

"That's the more complex issue that needs to be addressed.

"With all due respect to so many well-intentioned people who have instant solutions, until we deal with the root cause of all of this, we'll just be dealing with the symptoms."

According to criminologist Scot Wortley, the prevailing wisdom on solving a city's escalating crime problem is to strike a balance between the "weed and seed" approach. First, law enforcement and the judiciary "weed" out criminals from their neighbourhoods. Governments then must invest in those communities by improving their quality of life and prospects for the future so residents aren't drawn back into the same violent world.

"What we seem to see in North America," says the University of Toronto professor, "is a lot of focus on the weed side of the equation and not enough attention to the seed side."

That's because the law and order side is a quicker fix, he says, especially for politicians hoping for re-election. When the public is outraged that yet another innocent bystander is gunned down, they want to hear that policing is being beefed up and the justice system is going to throw the book at gun-toting thugs.

Launching early childhood intervention programs, for example, are not as sexy or as immediately satisfying. Investing in new housing, community centres and after school programs won't make the nightly news. The dollars spent there will take at least a decade -- if not more -- to reap results.

Yet just concentrating on enforcement and punishment, the criminologist warns, fails to deal with the root causes and the same violence is destined to recur.

"We've got some work to do," agrees Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair.

"You've got to invest in communities and in young people. You've got to give young people better choices so that they're not going to make the choice to go the way of the gun and you've got to give them better opportunities. That's a long term strategy we really need to invest in."

And here's the scary part -- if we don't do some serious seeding, Toronto's deplorable gunplay is only going to get worse.

According to a University of Toronto study, we are becoming a more economically polarized city, with a shrinking middle class and a burgeoning wealthy community at the top and an increasingly poor one at the bottom -- a typical recipe for social disaster. "If that trend continues," warns Wortley, "that is where you're going to see violent situations increase among young people who reside in those neighbourhoods -- they are going to be attracted to gangs, they are going to be attracted to guns, they are going to lose hope in the future and therefore, live a do-or-die lifestyle."

If money were no object? Pour funding and resources into these at-risk communities, especially for the young. Bulldoze the housing projects that have become dens of criminality, leaving the majority who are law-abiding residents cowering in fear and create mixed-income neighbourhoods like the one rising in Regent Park.

It may not be politically correct, but critics say we also have to tackle the problem of fatherless families.

"I've spent 30 years as a cop and as a victims' advocate and I don't have the solutions," admits John Muise, of the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness.

"But what I do know is that these kids, more often than not, are from broken homes where dad is either non-existent or they're confused about who he is and they're growing up with little or no male role models and their moms can't compete with the gangsters and the guns and the hip hop accoutrements of a fast and easy life."

Solve that, he believes, and you solve the gang problem. "But I don't know how to get there."

So there is much planting we have to do. But it's also time for a tougher weed whacker as well. If thugs are going to insist on packing a gun, then let them know they're going to be going away for a good long time. The new mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes should be enforced and not plea bargained away.

"There are individuals who will not be deterred by any effort," notes Toronto's police chief, "and the only thing we can do with those individuals is protect society from them by keeping them in a secure setting where they can't endanger themselves or others."

This city has to declare a zero tolerance on gunslingers.

"They're a tragedy just waiting to happen," warns Blair, "and I think it's predictable. And if it's predictable, I think it's preventable."

fromMike Murphy
date3 November 2008 15:35
subjectYour column ~ Seeding hope among youth

3 Nov (2 days ago)


Your column has managed to get down through all the rhetoric about gun control and poor housing et al to the root causes. It might well be, in part, poor or no male role models for many of the gang members. The question is why fathers are not there?

Family Courts are one of the greatest contributors of father withdrawal in North America.

Think about it – 50% of marriages end in divorce – 90% of custody cases are withdrawing the father to a 14% visitor per month – if he is lucky. This has been going on for a generation or more. That’s a lot of children. Are we reaping the end result now?

You are also accurate in your observation about political correctness. Recent ads in Dallas Texas portray men as evil abusers. You can see them here. Your reporting may help shed light on a problem many of us are fighting. We are seeking to change legislation to one of a presumption of shared and equal parenting, barring abuse, but a higher bar than “he-said-she said” is required for proving abuse. Children having both parents in their lives do much better.

Best wishes.

Michael Murphy cid:000a01c705ad$0add39e0$6400a8c0@mikeA2GJRT6TF9

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