Volume 94, Issue 5


NEWS

Harris gives private U's thumbs up

Galleria welcomes 2,400 new jobs

UWOFA, admin wrap up a deal

Knife proposal seeks mandatory jail-time

Feds give prof $50,000 for stripper hunt

Ontario pollution hits all time high

U of T Bookstore hits the picket lines

Where have all the Christians gone?

Metropolitan

Knife proposal seeks mandatory jail-time



By Chris Lackner
Gazette Staff



Committing a violent crime with a sharp weapon could give culprits a mandatory trip to the slammer if municipalities across Canada soon get their way.

John Schmal, Second Vice-President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and a member of Calgary's City Council, explained last week the FCM decided to support a London and Calgary based motion which endorsed amendments to the criminal code, specifically, ensuring mandatory jail-terms for criminal incidents involving knives and other sharp weapons.

"Every day I read about stabbings in the news," Schmal said. "London officials have come to the same conclusion as our own. We need to have minimum sentences for these kind of offences."

"We are in favour of a minimum sentence," said Ryan Holland, media-relations officer for the London Police Department. "It may be very beneficial as a deterrent."

"Knives have always been carried for protection," Holland explained. "When alcohol gets involved people stop thinking clearly and there can be tragic consequences as a result."

"Knives are the weapons of choice for the young and the old," London's Deputy-Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said. "We need to get the message out that we won't accept these actions. Public education and more police officers are ways to address the issue, but they're not enough. "

Paul Whitehead, professor of sociology at Western, said minimum penalties do not make much of a difference. "Laws with minimum penalties are made out of frustration when we don't know what else to do. I don't think an amendment to the code will make much of a difference. People might feel better, but that's about it."

Schmal said knife violence is a problem facing communities, police forces and politicians across the country. "It's an easy thing to stick something in your pocket or socks, whether it be a knife or a razor," he explained. "Young people think they need to be ready for any situation and it becomes easy for a fight or argument to break out."

"The surprise to me is not that we've had people stabbed," said David Tennant, co-chair of London's Co-ordinating Commitee for Community Safety.

Tennant said he was concerned carrying a knife had become like a clothing accessory. "We want people to know that our target is not the gangs or the bank-robbers. We want normally adjusted people who are carrying a knife as the latest cool fad to know there are consequences to their actions."

Whitehead said there is a high level of fear of crime but not a high level of violence. "The over-all level of crime downtown hasn't been increasing," Whitehead explained. "People are just very apprehensive of downtown because they don't go there often."

DeCicco said doing nothing was inappropriate, but explained it was never easy to change a law. "It does give us some credibility when municipalities across the country want to make these changes. That's a lot of power and support."

"We're not out to heal societies ills over-night." DeCicco explained. "But through education and increased police security, we can re-enforce safety with new laws."


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