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Open season: crime across Ontario is on the rise

Ben Brown
Ben Brown

Oakville has seen a noticeable uptick in the frequency and severity of criminal activity in recent years. Some suggest it is currently a microcosm of the reality of public safety in Canada. 

Halton Regional Police have one of the highest crime clearance rates in Canada, and there’s nothing front-line officers can do once the cuffs are off except cross their fingers that they don’t have to go back on again. But they often do. 

Having heard remarks from several front-line officers across Ontario, it’s evident that Canada’s infrastructure is not equipped to deter violent crime efficiently and officers are frustrated. It’s lacking one simple thing: consequences. 

Criminals know Oakville as a generally affluent area, making it a key target for crime tourism. In their eyes, this community has "enough", so it doesn’t matter if they steal from it.

In the last two months alone, Oakville has seen over 200 reported instances of auto theft, which can be seen as displayed on the crime map below.

Halton Police
Halton Police

Residential break-ins are approaching 70 cases over the last two months, with a clear fixation on south Oakville.

Read more: Trail of Oakville home break-ins prompts substantial police presence

Halton Police
Halton Police

The main issues at the moment for law enforcement in Canada could start with several factors: 

  • Criminals know they won’t face serious consequences
  • Auto theft is treated as a low-level property crime
  • The "catch and release" judicial system in place is heavily backlogged with cases
  • Police departments are understaffed all across Ontario with increasing turnover
  • Bail is far too easy to obtain
  • A criminals day in court doesn’t come for about 18 months on average

Ron Chhinzer, a former Toronto Police Service and Peel Regional Police Service officer with two decades specializing in gang prevention, is now a nomination Conservative Party Candidate for Oakville North-Burlington/Oakville East. He spoke on this in an interview. 

Asked to Chhinzer, "If someone’s a criminal, and they and six of their criminal partners commit a spree of break-ins in southeast Oakville, then get arrested, how long until they’re in front of a judge?"

"18 months," Chhinzer said. "We would bring them back to the station to interview them but with our current legal system, we would have to release them and that would probably happen within a couple of hours."

He went on to explain that even when a perpetrator does get their day in court, if they’re found guilty; it’s considered a property offence.

Criminals know this: Chhinzer says that the judicial system is structured in favour of offenders and that there’s almost nothing that can be done to enforce consequences under the current legislation that would deter anyone from committing a crime.

This is why, quite frequently, the crime cases media reports on will say "the accused was in breach of probation," or "was out on bail from a previous offence."

"It's important to communicate to the public that the police are effectively apprehending criminals," Chhinzer said. "However, without common sense legislation recognizing the severity of these crimes beyond mere property offences, these efforts are futile."

So what are cities in Ontario doing to fight crime? Well, if we look at our neighbours in Mississauga, this is how Peel Police have enforced the closure of an illegal cannabis store.

Peel Police
Peel Police

According to Peel Police, "This premise has shown a blatant disregard for law enforcement as eight Search Warrants were executed between January 2019 and December 2022, coupled with numerous calls for service."

"The City of Mississauga worked collaboratively with PRP S.E.B officers to establish an enhanced physical barrier to prohibit entrance to the establishment."

That’s what it’s come to in Ontario to shut down an illegal operation today. 

Mississauga Councillor Dipika Damerla expressed a high level of concern with the rising crime levels in her Ward, especially auto theft, and has begun a petition for the federal government that aims to fix the following: 

1) "Immediately amending the criminal code so that auto theft is treated similarly to offences treated under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act - with a minimum mandatory penalty and includes new offences related to possession, trafficking, and exportation of stolen vehicles."

2) "Rapidly increasing inspections of goods leaving Canadian ports, especially in Vancouver and Montreal."

According to Damerla, "From a taxpayer perspective, take the example of the cannabis store, think about how many taxpayer dollars went into getting a search warrant nine times and charging the suspects nine times, if I were a police officer, this would feel demoralizing. It’s like a whack a mole.

As crime continues to surge in Oakville and the GTHA, south Oakville remains a key target. 

Halton Police
Halton Police

Ward 3 councillors will be hosting a police Information session for the community tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 7 from 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at Maple Grove United Church.

In a letter to the community, Ward 3 councillors said, "It may provide little comfort to any of us that are victims of home invasions or theft and are worried, but Halton Police continue to have one of the highest crime clearance rates in Canada. Our community is a High Priority, and they are working at multiple levels to apprehend and seek convictions."