To the Editor:
I just thought that I would throw in my "two cents worth" on the Prairie Bylaw Enforcement (PBLE) reference in the Sept. 5 Page 2 Thompson Citizen story, "PBLE stats in question."
As luck would have it, I was in attendance at the council meeting on Aug. 13. It's more or less a given, that crime statistics can be interpreted in many different ways. The trouble is Prairie Bylaw Enforcement took it one step further. As Matt Durnan has aptly pointed out, there still remain lingering statistical questions. I would also like to applaud Coun. Luke Robinson for challenging PBLE owner Dave Prud'homme during the council meeting.
These statistics, in their entirety, can be viewed on the City of Thompson's website. Just surf into Public Safety and then PBLE. The bottom line, the statistics should exist for everyone to ultimately judge the enforcement bang for their Northern buck. Personally, I would have much favoured beefing up the city's bylaw unit thereby avoiding the engagement of hired "non-guns." I would have liked to see additional RCMP but clearly this takes a little more time than several months. I firmly believe that we have very capable resources in Thompson that would be more than capable of "shooing away" those that are otherwise intent on overindulgence. In practice, my feeling is that "move along" techniques and subsequent tactical employment should not be a difficult exercise.
My intent is not to dwell on PBLE statistics, but I'll use a few snappy examples to illustrate my more than cynical point of view. There are categories on the statistics from the summer period including: Loitering, open liquor, panhandling, public nudity, littering, drunk and disorderly and my personal favourite, "Liquor Disposed Of."
I'd like to give PBLE the benefit of the doubt - I like the wrapping. They look sharp in their uniforms and their security vehicle has far less dents and mud than most of the RCMP vehicles. The trouble is, with these subjective categories, it's impossible to get at the statistical truth. Think about it, "How is PBLE actually recording their calls to service?" If the phone rang and PBLE responded to a disturbance involving a naked suspect, who was in the process of panhandling, while holding an open beer -- where do you ultimately put the checkmark? Would there be three stats or one? "Liquor Disposed Of" is my favourite because Mr. Prud'homme utilized the terminology with mayor and council of "Units of Liquor." It begs the question, "Is a six pack (not the kind that isn't on my stomach) one unit of beer or six?
I do understand, and the mayor has stressed, that PBLE was an interim measure. I would suggest that $236,500 should not only buy you accurate math, but statistics that the city can later articulate as a quantified public safety concern to the province. It's too bad, given our dubious position in the "Statistics Canada: Crime Severity Index," that we didn't do a better job of establishing an accountability and reporting framework for PBLE. Given the absence of an accountability framework, can we really blame PBLE for statistically nudging the goalposts a little?
The only thing that would have anchored PBLE response to calls for service would have been issuing more summonses. How long would it have taken a PBLE officer to write a City of Thompson bylaw infraction? I note that parking tickets were issued; so why not other summonses? I can appreciate that we may not get fines paid, but at the end of the day we still have a legal document which reduces subjective statistical analysis to a documented enforcement response. Sadly, if the numbers don't add up to the city, then how can we expect to sell a viable public safety concern to the province?
On a positive note, PBLE was very successful in combating specific crime trends. I would suggest that we have learned a little something this summer. Did you know that according to PBLE there were three incidents of "urinating and defecating" in July and in all three cases summonses were issued. Yes, three poops and three pieces of paper.
However, for the same period "drunk and disorderly" there were 179 incidents and still only three summonses issued. I'm thinking, you are pretty safe with open liquor in Thompson, but please do find a "Porta Potty!"