You're likely aware of the recent report in Maclean's Magazine, identifying Prince Albert as being in third place in the country in overall violent crime and youth crime, and in second place for robberies and break and enters. Not statistics to be proud of, and not to be downplayed or denied or ignored.
Crime is certainly the first concern raised by most residents. And the police budget is the largest part of the overall city budget, with requests for increases higher than the rate of inflation every year. I know that when I was on council, it was always a difficult decision, as some members of council felt that the police should receive whatever they asked for, but there was rarely sufficient justification as to what the additional funds would do as far as reducing crime rates go.
And judging by the comments on electronic news sites, most people would rather that the justice system just lock up criminals indefinitely as their solution to the problem - a rather simplistic solution that ignores the basic reasons behind crime - poverty and poor housing.
Much was made several years ago when the Hub was established - that this was a new way of dealing with crime, by trying to address problems early, but unfortunately, the city has not been kept well-informed about any initiatives under the Hub, or what any results may have been. And we certainly don't hear much about the Hub lately. While the Hub is largely funded provincially, the city does provide some funding, and should be kept in the know about what it's doing.
I also wish that the police would try doing things differently as a way to save money, rather than just adding staff. I've long suggested that they should try patrolling back alleys regularly, but haven't seen any changes. To me that's a change that would have no additional cost, but might help reduce situations like the regular drug deals that I can see going on through a window in one of the apartment buildings behind our house.
So what else could the city do? Well, we do have direct influence on one of the causes of crime - poor housing. In fact, police call records show that many times, repeated calls are made to the same address, even though the residents have changed, indicating that these residences tend to be rented to criminals over and over again. I still think that establishing a housing registry in which landlords are required to meet basic standards would be an effective way of reducing the number of homes that are currently rented that aren't fit for a dog to live in, let alone a family. The province has a role to play too, in ensuring that rental assistance is only provided for licensed homes, but this is a solution where the city could start the ball rolling.
But we can't just keep throwing more money at the problem to continue on a path that hasn't been very successful in finding solutions.
"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." - Henry Ford