By CAM ROBINSON
Over the weekend, while enjoying the facilities at Centennial Park with my grandson, I witnessed a man urinating on a police officer’s car as the peacekeeper was engaging a rough-looking crowd drinking in public.
How do I describe my reaction? I leave it to you good citizens to decide. My five-year-old grandson would have the opinion that it was at very least a poor performance. I can draw no conclusion other than it was a symbolic act, an insult to both the constabulary and the community. Another observer remarked to me that our island home will never be the same. I hope not.
I have always believed that how we treat the least fortunate members of our community is a direct reflection of who we are. I am very happy to see my tax dollars support those in need. I am, however, becoming increasingly concerned over the challenge of determining who are the worthy candidates versus those who are opportunists, capable but unmotivated to contribute to the common weal. To me this issue is amplified in an island microcosm, where spaces, housing, human and financial resources are literally finite. As I have witnessed the “dark underbelly” of the homeless population increase, i.e., those who are preying upon our good will, property and quality of life, I recognize that an equal proportion of those most deserving of our support are more likely to be displaced and tarnished by this metastasizing cancer. What to do?
The homeless question: Is there a solution? The words question and solution have a somewhat sinister ring to them, but cannot be ignored for the sake of propriety. So how do we identify the miscreants from the meritorious in our homeless population? I don’t think it’s as difficult as you might imagine, because as I witnessed at Centennial Park, they seem to identify themselves. The problem I observed in that particular example is that there appeared to be no ticketing, detention or arrest of the individuals acting in contravention of the law. I suspect this is a consequence of an ongoing and overwhelming battle of attrition, as police officers tire of endless paperwork and a revolving door at the courthouse.
There must be consequences for criminal and antisocial behaviour; those who escape them are otherwise emboldened by their experience, and thus we are on a slippery slope in their absence. Here I will assert that prison, though appropriate for many, is an expensive and counterproductive means of rehabilitation for those who require a hand up by means of correction for their desultory citizenship. Let’s not send them to crime school.
Would it be too draconian to suggest repeat offenders be sent to work camps where by their own sweat and toil they may be instilled with a sense of self worth and purpose for their contribution to the common good, as well as the insight that such industry on the “outside” is preferable to the alternative?