Opinions

Stelmach gives criminals the silent treatment

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Last week, Calgarians experienced a spate of three shootings in 14 hours, including one that left a Brazilian student permanently blinded. In the wake of these events, Mayor Dave Bronconnier, for the second time in as many months, petitioned Premier Ed Stelmach for $25 million to add 200 new officers to Calgary's beleaguered and undermanned police force. Stelmach denied the request, choosing to stay with the government's plan to fund 300 new police officers throughout Alberta within the next three years, 100 of which will be in Calgary. Stelmach's choice, while controversial, is clearly the right one.

Violent criminals are like the kids in your elementary school class who always used to act out. Throwing spit-balls, cutting off ponytails, playing Pogs for keeps, they were the ones who didn't get hugged enough at home, so they tried to get attention at school. How did the other kids deal with them? They did as their parents said and ignored the troublemakers. Giving them attention would just reinforce their behaviour. As a father, Stelmach is surely aware of this parental mantra and has judiciously applied it to a completely identical situation: the quickly increasing prevalence of violent crime and gang-fighting in a booming city. The last thing that will solve Calgary's woes is the presence of more police on the street-- it would be akin to giving that snotty kid the attention he craves. It would let the violent criminals know that they are winning, thus reinforcing their behaviour.

Contrary to popular misconception, criminals don't want to be left alone to shatter lives and profit from other's misfortunes. Rival gangs don't want to have the freedom to shoot at each other wherever and whenever with relative impunity. Drug dealers don't want to be able to deal in the middle of downtown in broad daylight. They would much rather have their lives made difficult by the police. They would prefer to be hassled, hindered and impeded in their every movement. Criminals want to operate secure in the knowledge that if they are caught, they will face heavy penalties, including extended jail time. The threat of capture and consequences lets the criminal know that all eyes are on him and he's not going to go away while he can still enjoy the limelight.

The province must not give into these childish demands for attention. After all, you can't play "Cops and Robbers" if you don't have any cops. All you get is a bunch of bored would-be robbers, who eventually go play kickball instead. By cleverly denying the criminals their necessary counterparts, the premier has undermined their entire system. As long as we don't give in to their obvious demands for attention, they will eventually grow tired of their short-work weeks, freedom from taxes and profitable lifestyles and go the same way as all bullies: airport security and middle management. Stelmach knows this, and we should all applaud his cost-saving initiative. There is no "Lives of Innocent Bystanders Saved" column in the official provincial budget so, naturally, this is not worth considering.

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