My work this block revolved around one call. While it wasn’t the only call I had it was, without a doubt, the most significant this week.
One of the challenges with this blog and keeping the information relevant and current is that sometimes investigations go on for months and can’t be discussed in that time. Instead of boring you with “it was a routine block, I’ve got an ongoing investigation that I can’t talk about” I figured I’d address a set of questions I heard a couple times this block and most police officers hear often; “Where were you?” or “Don’t you have better things to do than write tickets?” or “Why don’t you go arrest a murderer?”.
I had arrested an impaired driver who blew over 3 times the legal limit and while slurring his words and leaning against the booking counter he demanded to know why I wasn’t out looking for murderers.
Another shift I was releasing a youth to his parents after he’d assaulted another youth with a weapon and sent the victim to hospital. The assailant’s father, while likely upset and embarrassed, demanded to know why his son could buy the weapon that he’d used and why there weren’t 4 police officers at the school during lunch hour to prevent his son from making this mistake.
While serving a driver with a violation ticket for excessive speeding I was asked why I wasn’t out looking for “gang bangers” and “rapists”.
Where was I?
On patrol our purpose is two-fold, respond to requests for service and to be proactive in the prevention of crime. Requests for service (calls) and the associated reporting generally take priority over proactive prevention. We will respond to everything from assaults and robberies in progress to civil disputes and bylaw complaints.
When we are proactive there is no magic formula to catch a murderer or prevent a rape.
In one sense, crime can be characterized 2 ways, targeted and random. If we consider random crime, or crime committed by someone without targeting a specific victim we can break it further into property crime and crime against a person.
Let’s consider random property crime. Break and enters, theft from auto, theft of auto, shoplifting, etc. We expect that people do their best to prevent the loss of their own property. I can’t tell you how many theft from auto’s I’ve gone to where the owner has left the door open or a GPS in the window or change and a phone charger in plain view. Of course this won’t stop the crimes but it may prevent you from being a victim. One of the ways we prevent this is by checking suspicious people.
My brother and I used to use the phrase when dealing with security protocols and encryption that “Security is a function of time, given enough time nothing is secure”. The flip side to that mathematical function is that the longer it takes to steal something the more secure it is.
Random crime against a person can consist of crime that involves harm to a person. Statistically speaking someone is far more likely to be harmed in a motor vehicle collision caused by a speeding, distracted or impaired driver than a random act of violence. Knowing that, I’m far more likely to be effective saving a life by stopping drivers that present a risk on the streets than wondering around yelling “Here, murderer murderer murderer” (as was suggested by one impaired driver).
Gang shootings, targeted assaults (including domestic assaults) are committed by people that enjoy the same rights and freedoms that everyone in Canada does. We may know that someone is a gang member and we may even know they intend to harm someone else at some point, we still have to act within the law. We can not just suspect they will commit crime and barge into their homes or vehicles and take their weapons or drugs.
We have specialized sections that are dedicated to investigations to lawfully stop these people but it’s no simple task.
Knowing people are more likely to be harmed in a traffic collision that by a random assault, we focus on preventing the collisions.
Knowing that random property crime is usually committed under the cloak of darkness, we talk to people randomly walking or cycling, especially in areas experiencing higher crime rates.
Knowing that drinking and parties can lead to assaults we’ll respond to house parties and bars and make decisions that sometimes lead to people being required to leave.
We develop intelligence and statistics to allow us to focus on suspects, crimes and high target areas.
We do these things to prevent crime.