A Violent Peterborough

While installing security cameras downtown will help police, they won't address the root causes of crime

Graffiti in Peterborough (photo: Pat Trudeau)
Graffiti in Peterborough (photo: Pat Trudeau)

Imagine one morning you’re sitting at home, sipping a cup of hot coffee, and the phone rings.

On the other end is a police officer who tells you that your loved one was beaten to the edge of his or her life. The officer continues to explain that not only is your loved one in intensive care on life support, but the police have no motive for the attack or any suspects.

This past weekend, this unbelievable situation became a reality for the family of Brandon Delaney after Brandon was discovered laying in a pool of blood on Hunter Street.

At 2 am on Saturday morning in downtown Peterborough, cowards beat Brandon — the father of a seven-year-old girl — so badly that his skull was fractured in two places and he spent much of the weekend in a coma. To add to the family’s despair, there aren’t many (if any) witnesses coming forward about Brandon’s attack.

On Sunday that same weekend, police responded to a home invasion and possible attack on Park Street North at 9:40 am. The complainants are being very vague about details and there won’t likely be any arrests.

Then at 11:30 am on Sunday, 88-year-old Tony Lagana was beaten during a robbery of his downtown business. The assailant entered in the light of mid day, stole cash and other items, then dragged Lagana to the back of the shop and beat him.

All this just months after a man was pepper sprayed and slashed in the face in the north end. Not to mention the countless street fights that take place every weekend between drunken fools downtown.

So tell me, do you still feel safe walking around Peterborough?

I know these are isolated incidents, but my general observation is that we’re seeing a lot more of these types of ballsy acts in recent memory.

This weekend’s events sparked much online discussion and many pitched the idea of downtown security cameras yet again. Not surprisingly, no one has the money to install them and the police “hope” that the city or the DBIA will fund the installation of the cameras.

In 2011, the police department applied for a provincial government grant of $150,000 to install cameras at 12 major downtown intersections. The city gave approval for the application but ultimately the government did not approve it and the idea was scrapped.

While security cameras are great and provide support to police, they’re not perfect and you can’t blanket the entire city with them.

Those against the idea of cameras point to their cost, they’re lack of coverage and the fact that if people are aware that they’re under surveillance, they’ll simply move to an area where they are not. They wouldn’t have, for example, shown the attack on Tony on Charlotte Street and they certainly wouldn’t have helped with the home invasion on Park North.

Supporters of the idea (myself included) think that the benefits outweigh the costs. They aren’t the only solution to the problem, but they would certainly assist in the downtown core.

The city needs to respond to the growing issue of violent crime and the public's sense of security in the downtown core (photo: Pat Trudeau)
The city needs to respond to the growing issue of violent crime and the public's sense of security in the downtown core (photo: Pat Trudeau)
If you look at the type of crime and the desperation that some of it has, I think it speaks to an underlying issue or cause. You already have to be desperate to break the law and steal from someone, but to do it mid day, near downtown, and to senselessly beat an 88-year-old man … you’re on a whole other level of desperation.

The transient population of Peterborough is growing; if you don’t believe me, go talk to the folks who run the various shelters in Peterborough. With that, substance abuse in the city grows too.

Substance abuse also grows during tough times and, with Peterborough’s high unemployment rate, that won’t boomerang anytime soon. Things are getting harder and harder for a lot of folks in Peterborough.

Increases in substance abuse cost a lot of money. People scrape and pillage what they can, but when their addiction takes hold they resort to extreme means.

I’m not justifying the act, I’m simply giving my opinion as to what is contributing to news days like what we had last Sunday.

So cameras won’t fix the issue. They’ll help the police do their job, yes, but the root cause of the issue will still be there.

It’s like saying that, to cure someone’s mental illness, we’ll just tie them to a bed so they can’t hurt themselves or others. You haven’t cured anything until the proper help is provided to the person tied to that bed.

I don’t know what the answers are, but I do know that our city needs to respond to the growing issue of violent crime and the public’s sense of security in the downtown core.

When running a city, you don’t get to focus on one issue at a time and see each one through to a conclusion. You have to work systematically on a number of issues all at once and demonstrate progress. This is one of those issues that shouldn’t just be tabled for a few months, shelved, then dusted off every few years. It needs constant attention.

We need to work together as a community to find real solutions to the issues that are at the root cause of this type of crime.

Conservative or liberal, we need to put aside our petty differences and vendettas and work towards a common goal. Imagine, for example, if the attention paid to Lakefield’s seat on the police board were paid to the issue of violent crime in the city.

We owe it to the families of Mr. Lagana and Mr. Delaney to do something now — or all we’re ever going to do is tie people to beds instead of really, truly, help them.