No one on the street cares about organized crime, former Halifax Regional Police chief David McKinnon told me in 2000. People care about dangerous dogs.
It was a moment of hyperbole easily understood—most people care more about the little things that affect their lives every day than the big issues.
I was interviewing McKinnon (who died of cancer in 2003) for a profile and ended up giving him the gears for the lack of beat cops walking Halifax’s streets. There was, at the time, a lone officer stalking Spring Garden.
Things have changed.
Twenty-one new cops were sworn in last week. They’ll be put on patrols in north Dartmouth and west-end and downtown Halifax. They won’t necessarily be on foot, police spokesperson Theresa Brien says, but they’ll free up officers who can and will be.
The new cops are being touted by police chief Frank Beazley as a salve for the violent crime problem growing for a decade in HRM.
Beat cops are a welcome presence, not only as a means of curbing random beatings and shootings but, ideally, to help repair relationships between the police and residents who feel threatened by some members of the service (in August, the Halifax Coalition Against Poverty organized a street march opposing police discrimination against the poor).
But what about David McKinnon’s dangerous dogs?
Let me tell you about my little neighbourhood issue.
There’s an auto body shop near my downtown-north house where cars are parked illegally practically every day. They get in the way of an intersection, which is a pain in the ass when you’re driving. But what really gets me is this: they are parked on the sidewalk.
This has been the norm for at least six years. No strollers. No grocery carts. No wheelchairs. None can fit by. The auto body shop makes the rules for this little stretch of sidewalk. They own it. For six years, they have owned it.
I ask parking commissionaires to visit and ticket every time I see them in the neighbourhood. I mentioned it to my councillor a couple of years ago.
So I’m taking a new tack. I call the non-emergency dispatcher—490-5020—every day. According to the usually polite souls who have to log my calls, they send someone every time they receive a report.
This is week four of my crusade.
Still no change.
You can call my war against the sidewalk-parkers petty. But it’s not. I had an inkling to just give up because I thought the same thing during week two. But then on my daily walk by the auto body shop I watched a man in a wheelchair having to motor up the middle of the street into oncoming traffic. Resolve? Strengthened.
There are bigger problems in my neighbourhood. The paucity of affordable housing, the lack of teeth in the city’s Dangerous and Unsightly by-laws and my worries about used needles at the local playground come immediately to mind.
But consider this: Parking on the sidewalk…no…ahem…being allowed to park on the sidewalk is a big fuck you to my neighbourhood and the people who live in it.
As David McKinnon might say, these are my dangerous dogs.
And after the swarmings and shootings are looked after, it would be nice if the beat cops could take an eye to helping solve this problem. Because in some ways, not being able to walk down the sidewalk at all is more important than worrying about being assaulted when you do have room to get by.
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