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'Crime is a symptom of social exclusion'

Wednesday, March 26, 2014   by: Donna Hopper

Solving issues of crime in the Sault's downtown area is about inclusion and engagement, says Community Justice Consultant Hugh C. Russell (pictured).

During a presentation of the Downtown Dialogue Action Project hosted last week by the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, the NORDICK Institute, and the John Howard Society, Russell stressed that the solution is not about enforcement but rather the development of community strategies in marginalized neighbourhoods.

"A lot of us have always thought: 'Bad people commit crimes… Remove the bad people and everything will be fine'," he told "What we're failing to acknowledge is marginalization creates desperation among people who have to satisfy the needs and demands of life in ways that those of us that are not marginalized are doing in a healthier and less criminal fashion."

Citing a quote attributed to a crime analyst with the Sudbury Police Service - "Crime is a symptom of social exclusion. Disadvantage does not necessarily lead to crime" - Russell explained that these marginalized citizens are not excluded by intent.

Crime and marginalization are indicators of our broken social fabric, and that creates fear of one another.

Rekindle that fabric, create a sense of neighbourhood, and encourage citizens to care for one another, and crime in historically marginalized areas will decrease without the need for increased law enforcement.

"Social development agencies are also the people themselves," said Russell. "We have to truly believe that they are assets and they can contribute greatly to the success of these missions. Often that means we have to defer to them."

Statistics show that listening to an offender's side and determining the root cause of the offence reduces the chances that the perpetrator will return to their previous pattern of behaviour, he said.

Russell is encouraged by the development of the upcoming Sault Ste. Marie Police Service satellite office on Gore Street - the Neighbourhood Resource Centre - which will partner with a number of other community agencies.

Similar examples in other communities have shown positive results and increased public perception of police and participating agency legitimacy.

"Readers in the Sault should be very grateful that this Police Service has made that transformation from just tough on crime - that over-simplification does not work and contributes tremendous expense - to smart on crime, and that's engaging community partners," Russell stated.

The Downtown Dialogue Action Project researchers consulted with approximately 1,000 area residents, businesses and community partners to determine the steps required to develop and implement the revitalization of Sault Ste. Marie's downtown core.

The goal is to improve the attractiveness and overall quality of life for downtown residents, businesses, visitors, and organizations.

Crime reduction and inclusion are integral components of this project.

The Downtown Dialogue in Action has engaged the community in actions that have shown progress, such as:

  • Jamestown Flower Bomb community beautification project
  • Graffiti Reframed Strategy to foster young artists for participation in the creative economy
  • Soup Ste. Marie crowd funding event in support of social innovation projects in the downtown
  • Restorative Justice train the trainer of staff members from the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, the John Howard Society, NORDIK Institute, the Algoma District School Board as well and the Huron Superior Catholic District School Board
  • Support for the development of harm reduction kits for distribution by the Coalition of Women in Numbers
  • Support for social enterprise development in the downtown

An encore presentation of last week's Downtown Dialogue Action Project forum, Crime Prevention Through Social Development Final Report, will take place this evening at the Grand Gardens, 68 Dennis Street, at 7 p.m.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
lennom 3/26/2014 11:06:51 AM Report

Social exclusion is not the issue here in the Soo. Our problem here is lack of work for everyone. We need to stop relying on tourism and start thinking more about industry. Mind you there are plenty of people that have a criminal nature and wont change but, in order for a community to prosper there needs to be more employment available for all fields.
Kweveye 3/26/2014 11:10:20 AM Report

this is what i was just trying to say in the last article, listen and work together to make things better , ill bet most of the crime is learned behavior that can be retaught to be productive instead of destructive. all we have to do is communicate with each other instead of talking at each other with closed minds. but thats just my opinion. :D
superior87 3/26/2014 11:26:45 AM Report

Pleasantly surprised with the first 2 comments here. Came in here expecting the usual inane yelling about criminals, but instead found 2 actually well thought out, constructive responses.

Who knows what will follow below, but great contributions.
brittz 3/26/2014 11:27:53 AM Report

Stop cuts to social services and fund more safe, affordable housing. Ideally a better mental health system would also help to reduce crime, but with Ontario's broken system, all too often people with mental illness get pushed back out onto the streets or put in jail labeled as criminals because their disorders are not being treated. Society shuns those who engage in risky behaviour, but the gov't consistently cuts funding to programs that can help root out the causes of crime.
Dixiepup 3/26/2014 11:30:59 AM Report

I grew up in one of the worst neighbourhoodsin town. I went to high school, most of my friends went to reform school..the difference was I had parents, who in spite of poverty, still worked hard for a living, (both mother and father), and made it clear that criminal behaviour might be sociably acceptable in some families but not in ours. My mom raised eight kids and waited tables. My dad worked steady nights as a bartender.. They emphasized education and thatALL work had honor. We live in a "it's societies fault" mentality today. Good parental values and education go a long way. I've had a good life, but no one gave me anything, I worked hard for it and didn't resort to crime to get it, in spite of always knowing that I was from what they called the wrong side of the tracks!
ThinkAgain 3/26/2014 11:50:23 AM Report

"Graffiti Reframed Strategy to foster young artists for participation in the creative economy".
Sounds like Justin Biebers lawyer making that statement.
Go to College and take an Art class like we did. To encourage Graffiti I find completely wrong.
ThinkAgain 3/26/2014 11:53:35 AM Report

Justin Bieber's bad behaviour: 1 of 13 recent lowlights to consider
The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jan. 23 2014, 9:24 AM EST
Last updated Thursday, Jan. 30 2014, 4:58 PM EST

Justin Bieber sprays graffiti on an Australian hotel
Nov. 28: An Australian hotel is declaring itself a graffiti Belieber, despite being at odds with the city government.

QT Hotel in the Gold Coast said it gave Justin Bieber permission to spray graffiti on its wall. The Canadian singer and others posted images online showing cartoon faces in fluorescent paint on an outdoor wall at the hotel in Queensland state.

The Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate says the singer risked undermining the city’s efforts to fight graffiti. “The last thing we want is to have graffiti glorified and more young people thinking it’s a cool thing to do,” he said.
Brietsy 3/26/2014 11:59:10 AM Report

Grafiti art can be quite good, and if it's in a planned place, I don't see a problem.

The style may not be one which you appreciate, but some others do, and if it's done well, it's better then a blank wall.

In some big cities, they hire grafiti artists to paint murals, because there's a kind of unspoken code that you don't paint over someone else's work. It gives the city/business a unique piece of art, and discourages unwanted grafiti.

So, if the city wants the punishment for someone who has "tagged" something, to do part of a 6'X 60' mural, it encorages the young arts community, gives a new talking piece for the town, and discourages further grafiti.

where's the bad?
Milhouse van Houten 3/26/2014 12:05:14 PM Report

It is my understanding that the Graffiti Reframed Strategy will give local young artists the opportunity to create (with permission) murals in the Sault downtown area. The initiative is not intended to promote vandalism, but to foster inclusion, cooperation and creativity.
Bad Dawg 3/26/2014 12:19:14 PM Report

punks will be punks, I am all for the artists having a chance to beatify the downtown. But if you think the "Skoots" types (skoots is a tagger) who is written all over this city. If you think they will not mark someone else's art...... your in a dreamland. they have no respect for a clean wall there will be no respect for someone's art!!
Brietsy 3/26/2014 12:46:57 PM Report

I know it seems wierd, but it's true. urban centres with a grafiti mural 1' off the ground and 6' tall, along the side of a building will see the 1' under the mural tagged, but the mural untouched.

lizzardskills 3/26/2014 1:14:12 PM Report

I actually just had a discussion with a friend of mine yesterday about stuff like this. There aren't enough employment opportunities for people who commited crime to rehabilitate into society. At least in Ontario. Even with criminal records many can find meaningful work in other provinces where employer needs are higher. There isn't enough immediate drug rehab opportunities or employment opportunities for people with criminal records. Especially in the Sault where everyone knows everything. Small minded people are only making things worse.
bulletcards 3/26/2014 1:23:08 PM Report

soon to be lots of abandon buildings to tag when this city goes belly up, and people start leaving in hordes. stop the catch and release of criminals. In the soo we don't have a violent crime problem persay. it's comparaple to other cities with similar population. The main problem is property crime. Every time you see a break in think of the costs/losses that are not reported. replacing doors, windows, locks, installing flood lights, installing a securtity system. On top of replacing items. Lets face it most do not go through insurance due to the fact that it costs you more in the long run once you lose your discount and your rates go up. Insurance companies base the premiums on many factors one of those is how much property crime is in the city you live in. stop the low end crime. If the city progresses the way it is and the government continues to neglect Northern Ontario, expect the low end crime to explode in the soo. It is easier to get away with even when caught.
mosquitos 3/26/2014 2:10:52 PM Report

I agree with most of the posts that broken homes and lack of opportunity are the key problems. As for tourism in the Sault; not much to see here. We need industry and jobs here.
mallet 3/26/2014 2:31:10 PM Report

I will not comment on certain agencies which support offenders, however one has to question the bit about statistics showing if listening to the offender will reduce the re-offending. How many times do you see on the police beat. X breaches of probation, is probation not giving the offender another chance?? Mistakes can be forgiven, once, but repeated times is just thumbing the nose at society in general, going to work means you have to get up in the morning and go to bed at a reasonable hour, rather than being out half the night and not able to get up in the morning. A lot of "poor" people make the effort and do not cry that society has marginalized them. Not everyone was born with a silver spoon in their mouth but they do not turn to a life of crime, they make the effort to improve their lives. I am, I regret not a "bleeding heart type" if I went to work, why cannot them...
thumbs4208 3/26/2014 3:42:35 PM Report

this is a joke - someone getting a pay off to do this. Get people working, put an effort to funding drug rehabilitation(see the west coast), keep the law around( patrols cars - etc) . A lovely flower pot and a clean wall won't do anything.
Bad Dawg 3/26/2014 3:55:33 PM Report

Breitsy..... so what happens when the mural covers the entire wall, those lil taggers are gonna respect it?? skoots can't even respect a brand new bus shelter without tagging it the first night. same kind of punks that tagged all those cars!!
steelworker 3/26/2014 4:34:32 PM Report

Just another clown making money off of the "crime industry".
girlygirl123 3/27/2014 10:48:15 AM Report

OMG how many more excuses for human miss behaviour, how about getting real? Wow lets continue with the believe that when someone murders some one they are under drug and alcohol influences and not really accountable for their actions. Sault Ste Marie has a very high drug and alcohol problem and it is so easy to rob or break and enter to support the habit. How about making the accused responsible with stiffer sentences instead of a slap on the hand. And Oh my god if we defend what is ours we get charges with assault, what is wrong with this picture?
AndyCap 3/27/2014 7:25:40 PM Report

@girlygirl Whats wrong with this picture is that what you are suggesting is what is being done already and it doesnt work. In the states you can get life for pot under certain circumstances and people are still smoking the green. Society has to fend for itself. If you have children be involved, raise them right and teach them compassion and respect. If everyone does that there wouldnt be a need for these type of conventions.
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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