Some quick, sad, math

Last weekend, I wrote about chronic offender/public nuisance Perry Antoine, his release from prison and his upcoming fight with the province over the peace bond justice officials want to put him on for the next two years to try and keep him in check.

The background is all in the story. And it’s quite possible that now, at age 52 and confined largely to a wheelchair, Mr. Antoine won’t reoffend again.

But today, it occurred to me to look more closely at his record since 1979, since he became an adult, and do some math.

In that time, his record notates he’s done 5,746 days behind bars (just shy of 16 years) since ’79.

Using the recently cited provincial inmate housing costs of $174 a day to keep him in custody, that equals:

 $1,005,550 — simply to keep him in jail in that time. (This is low-balled. See *note below on why — factoring in federal prison costs would bring us to a staggering $1,610,109).

That’s not counting the cost to the taxpayer for police to arrest and process him, nor the cost to prosecute or judge him.

That’s simply to keep him detained.

More importantly, that doesn’t count the cost of probation services.

Since 1979, he’s been given the equivalent of 16.5 years worth of probation across various orders.

(Let’s say for the sake of argument he had one appointment a week at an arbitrary cost of $75 for 858 weeks. that’s $64,350).

I couldn’t tell you what the actual value of that in terms of dollars would be, but probation officers — especially the ones working the highest-risk offenders — don’t come cheap. The actual cost is much, much higher, no doubt.

Going forward, there will be more probation costs incurred as the Criminal Organization High Risk Offenders Unit (COHROU) are the Corrections unit tasked with hawking him now that he’s free.

Neither does it count the cost of storing Mr. Antoine in the drunk tank, nor the hospital visits or community health services.

Nor the victim services.

I’d peg the dollar cost to society of dealing with Mr. Antoine at well over $2 million since he turned 18.

While that’s huge, especially since he’s just one chronic offender in a province with many of them, the greater concern to me is the loss of human potential. What a seeming waste of a precious lifetime.

The other thorny issue is how despite our ‘investment’ over the years in Mr. Antoine’s — and society’s — safety and well-being, not much seems to have changed for that.

Something to ponder.

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* naturally, he’d be earning parole at some points along the way in both provincial and federal systems. But any decrease in time spent would be counterbalanced by the fact it costs double to house an inmate in the federal system [where he recently served each and every day of an 8-year bit] That cost, Stats Can says, is $357 a day (2010-11 data). Factoring in that figure, it’s $1,610,109. Trust me, I’m a journalist.

[EDIT to correct date of Stats Can data]

Downtown Winnipeg: Personality Sketches II

This is the second in a series of sporadic reports about criminally-involved people who habitually inhabit and wander downtown Winnipeg.

There’s a lot more to them and their lives than I’d bet most care to realize.

These are true stories. 

(Arson rates, Winnipeg, click for larger image)

Downtown Winnipeg tales #2: George Leslie Guimond, 54 (*See note at bottom*)

Garbage bin fires are a big deal in Winnipeg and have been for years, regardless of how one feels about their stature on the overall arson hierarchy.

Look at it from a firefighter’s point of view: He or she doesn’t care that the blaze began in an Autobin or a recycling blue box. It has the potential to spread quickly and become lethal. They’re treated as emergencies.

They cost real dollars to extinguish and are potentially very dangerous. That’s the bottom line.

In the chart provided to city council just a few months ago, you can see that rushing out to trash can fires outstrips other Winnipeg Fire Department emergency calls by not just a long shot — but a long, long shot.

George Guimond sets garbage bin fires.

From the information I have before me today — largely collected in 2005 and 2006 after cops tediously tracked an arson spree of his and linked him to 16 trash fires over four days — Guimond doesn’t know or particularly care why he sets them.

He just does it. Last time, in August 2011, it was because a housecat caught his ire for some unknown reason and he light a blue box alight in a Langside Street lane.

The damage was exceptionally minimal — $100 — but that’s not really the point.

His history is the point.

Guimond is 54. He’s homeless and has been homeless and transient for years. But he’s one of us, a citizen of Winnipeg.

He has the equivalent of a Grade 6 education. In 2005, he couldn’t say who the Prime Minister of Canada was at the time — and Mayor Sam Katz was “that baseball guy … after Glen Murray.”

Guimond appears hopelessly addicted to sniffing paint-stripper fumes.

“Mr. Guimond also acknowledged that he has, in the past, experienced visual hallucinations and blackouts, both ‘when high,” a forensic psychologist wrote to the provincial court at the time, when his mental fitness to stand trial on 16 arson-related counts was in question.

Guimond also appeared to understand the mental damage his huffing could cause, but appeared not to care all that much.

“Mr. Guimond was adamant that ‘no one can stop me, I get lots of it on Main Street,’ and firmly expressed his intention to continue using such substances.”

In terms of his understanding of crucial elements of the legal system: his defence lawyer was the guy whose job was to “get me out.” The prosecutor: “trying to get me to do time.”

He’s childlike and vulnerable judging from reports and his demeanour in court.

At the time it was years since he had a stable place to live.

But for me, here’s the tragic kicker of Guimond’s life: He’s messed himself up so badly sniffing laquer fumes that there may be no coming back from it or assisting him.

What I mean by this is: there was no programming for him because his mental illness isn’t a “diagnosed mental disorder” by which he could access assisted-living programs and possibly get right.

Hell, when probation services called an agency (name wasn’t given) to try and get him involved in some kind of “mentor” program that may have been of great help, the agency didn’t even bother to call the officer back.

Then again, in 2005-06, Guimond wasn’t exactly amenable to being helped when it came to trying to find himself a permanent home with the help of Manitoba’s probation services.

How he ended up on social assistance and wandering the streets of Winnipeg’s downtown and West Broadway while high out of his mind (and often locked up in the drunk tank) is hard to say.

Born in Fort Alexander to parents Margaret and Alfred, Guimond says he was never involved in the CFS system and never sexually, physically and emotionally abused. His parents only occasionally drank liquor. He has 15 siblings who live in areas across the country.

For some reason, as a youngster, he says he spent a lot of time away from the home but wouldn’t divulge why.

Dad died in the mid-90s.

Guimond says he’s never been married, but says he was once involved with a woman named Flora whom he had lived with for five years. Asked to give up her address or phone number, he couldn’t.

Guimond also said he had two adult kids with a woman named Margarita years ago, possibly when he worked as a painter in the 1970s for the Logan Heights company, or on railway boxcars that — like himself — pass quietly and lonely through our city, largely unnoticed.

The kids, they don’t live in Winnipeg, Guimond said. He couldn’t say where they’re at or when he last saw them.

His friends, Guimond said at the time, were pawn shop employees.

Sadder still is that those pawn workers apparently didn’t know that.

“The (probation officer) contacted ‘Joe’ from Broadway Pawn. Joe [did not want to provide last name] informed the subject has come into the pawn shop to sell some movies but does not know the subject personally and therefore can not provide any relevant information,” the PO says.

Another name offered — a Robert Chartrand who worked for the government — didn’t pan out either.

All of this is not to say that Guimond hasn’t taken steps to deal with his problems. He faithfully attended a full-time, month-long detox program in 2004 at Pritchard House.

The problem, however: Although he attended and participated in the treatment regime, the concern was he simply didn’t understand any of it; he lacked the mental capacity to apply what he learned to his life.

Now, as we so often see in the justice system, it falls to a judge to try and sort out this mess, to balance what’s best for society with what’s best for the offender, George Guimond.

There’s more to his story to come, however.

Judge Sid Lerner has kept him behind bars as probation services takes another kick at the can of trying to figure out the apparently confounding problem that is George Leslie Guimond, repeat garbage arsonist and citizen of Winnipeg.

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Important note to the reader: Many of the details here are taken from court ordered reports authored in 2005 and 2006. A new, updated report is in the works. Now, while it should be said there appears to have been a lengthy gap in his fire-setting or other criminal behaviour from 2007 to August 2011, the underlying social issues that have plagued him don’t appear to have changed. I can’t stress this enough: at the time of the August bin fire, Guimond was witnessed leaning up against an AutoBin clutching a pop bottle filled with a murky brown/yellowish liquid. He had two cigarette lighters on him at the time. 

It also must be said that although that great amount of time had passed, his defence lawyer presented no new information about any material changes to Guimond’s life or circumstances on Friday, if that’s an indication of anything. 

Abdul Jemei, the YCJA and fear

(Twitter)

Mike McIntyre of the mighty Freep clicked out a tweet today about a story that appeared Sunday in the broadsheet by Sandy Klowak.

The story had to do with the city’s latest homicide victim, Abdul Jemei, and how even in death, he was able to help his family out.

While the stories about Jemei have focused largely on him, his life and his background, there’s been little said about the people accused of killing him, nor (possibly the most unanswered question of all time), why he was killed.

Doing the usual court scan today, I came across the name of the 16-year-old boy who police have charged with second-degree murder for Jemai’s stabbing death.

My heart went cold.

It’s not the first, second nor even third time this kid’s made the news.

I last wrote about him roughly three years ago in connection to a case that had me shaking my head over the two years I covered it. Here’s how it started.

Boy, 13, charged with raping and beating girl

Winnipeg Free Press
Tue Sep 9 2008
Page: B2
Section: City
Byline: James Turner

A 13-year-old boy accused of raping, repeatedly battering and leaving an Internet “friend” bleeding in a Portage Avenue building has been released from custody.

The boy is charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm after he and the 13-year-old victim — a friend he met on the Internet — had been out drinking and hanging out with other friends downtown.

Early Aug. 8, the two wound up in a stairwell of a downtown building where the boy allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward the girl. When she refused to co-operate, he is alleged to have dragged her by the legs down two flights of stairs before repeatedly beating her and viciously sexually assaulting her.

He fled the scene. Police found the girl the next morning and took her to hospital.

Crown attorney Victoria Cornick said the girl suffered broken teeth and severe swelling to her face and other parts of her body.

The boy was arrested the same day and confessed in a videotaped statement to police, Cornick said.

The Crown was opposed to his release, arguing he’s a high-risk individual who won’t obey court orders.

The boy’s lawyer blamed his actions and classification as “high-risk” on his upbringing on a northern reserve where kids are largely unsupervised.

“It’s a universal problem in the community,” Bill Armstrong said.

On the night in question, the boy was said to have been angry over others making fun of his “manhood” and bravery when he refused to fight older boys involved in a street gang.

The youth was released on bail last Friday after provincial court Judge Lee Ann Martin ruled that the boy’s CFS group home could properly supervise him while his case is in the courts.

Martin ordered the boy to abide by a curfew, and to have no contact with the victim, possess no weapons and seek treatment for substance abuse.

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The boy was ultimately convicted for this crime — and the facts only seemed to get worse — in July 2009.

I covered it on radio for the CBC, but can’t find a related web story. Luckily, colleague Gabrielle Giroday was also there.

I’m not joking when I say the efforts that went into sentencing this kid (from the Crown, defence, social-workers, probation officers etc…) were near-legendary.

Countless court hearings to determine the best sentence for him and (ostensibly) the public, followed by judicial reviews of his time in the community after the custodial part of his sentence ended.

Still, he’s been charged more times than a marathoner’s iPod.

The following list is practically boilerplate these days:

  • Teen given every benefit of the youth criminal justice system’s rehabilitative aspects. Check.
  • Multiple accusations of probation/court order breaches. Check.
  • Out on bail and facing weapons and breach charges at the time of the Jemei murder allegation. Check.

Breach Conditions of Youth Criminal Justice Act sentence: Jan 16

Breach conditions of release to reside as directed: 10 to 14 Feb.

Possess weapon for a dangerous purpose: Jan 16 (he was handed a five-year mandatory weapons prohibition for the sexual assault)

While I can take some comfort that Mr. Jemei may not have died completely in vain, I feel horrible for his family.

And some small part of me (the pessimistic, fearful one) can’t help but wonder how many other kids like the one accused here roam our streets with virtual impunity.

The problem is that we just don’t ever seem to know until it’s too late.

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Peace, order and good government

Kevin Chief, running for the NDP in Winnipeg North

The A4-A5 spread in Friday’s Winnipeg Free Press is worth reading, and re-reading, and then reading again.

First, with the civic election now over, the focus now shifts to the upcoming federal byelection in Winnipeg North.

As it was in the municipal contest, crime appears to lead the debate in the area, just in a more oblique and less tangible way. The recent shootings that claimed two lives is the hook.

Crime top-of-mind in Winnipeg North

Mia Rabson quotes CrimeStat stats that state in the last month alone (taken to mean Sept 29 to Oct 29 2010) the riding has been “the site of at least three slayings, more than a dozen sexual assaults, several shootings and countless robberies and assaults.”

Winnipeg North Riding, C/O Elections Canada

Remember: the Winnipeg North riding is not the same as the electoral ward of Mynarski or North Point Douglas. [Map provided, click to enlarge] Crime Stat won’t measure by anything other than police district, electoral ward or precise neighbourhood. Neither does the public view of CrimeStat denote assaults.

The federal catchment area is huge, much larger than what we’d consider the North End.

“The riding includes the neighbourhoods of Jefferson North, Mandalay West, Maple Glen, Garden City, Jefferson, St. John’s, Inkster Faraday, William Whyte, Dufferin, North End, Burrows Central, Robertson, Selkirk, Mynarski, Northwood,Shaughnessy Heights, Lord, Tyndall Park, Garden Grove, Oak Point, Inkster Gardens, Luxton, the south part of The Maples and the north part of Logan CPR in the City of Winnipeg.”‘

But for the purposes of this article, we’ll tabulate the available police-provided stats (homicides, shootings, sex assaults, robberies) from the following defined neighbourhoods: St John’s, Burrows Central, Lord Selkirk Park, Inkster Faraday and William Whyte.

These make up the big bad North End most people would refer to in terms of the “crime-riddled North End.”

The 30 days of data that was available to people via CrimeStat for the last month from today stemmed from Sept. 28 to Oct. 27, 2010.

  • St. Johns: 1 homicide, 7 robberies, 3 sex assaults, 0 shootings
  • William Whyte: 1 homicide, 10 robberies, 1 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Robertson: 0 homicides, 1 robbery, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Burrows Central: 0 homicides, 3 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 0 shootings
  • Lord Selkirk Park: 0 homicides, 3 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 1 shooting
  • Inkster Faraday: 0 homicides, 4 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 1 shooting

Total: 2 homicides (Beardy and MacDonald), 28 robberies, 4 sex assaults, 2 shootings

A year earlier, same period:

  • St. Johns: 0 homicides, 2 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • William Whyte: 0 homicides, 13 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 5 shootings
  • Robertson: 0 homicides, 2 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Burrows Central: 0 homicides, 0 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Lord Selkirk Park: 0 homicides, 7 robberies, 1 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Inkster Faraday: 0, 0, 0, 0 in all categories

Total: 0 homicides, 25 robberies, 1 sex assault, 5 shootings

So, from this, we see that for this 30-day period, crime appears slightly up year over year, but realistically, not up by much. Shootings are down; robberies are statistically at the same level. The rise in sexual assaults, however, is concerning.

Saturday Shootings map

So, we have a scary scenario that plays out last Saturday. Three shootings — two fatal— happen within about a 35 minute span. The assumption being made (see page A5 of today’s WFP) is that a single individual (either masked or in a ninja costume) was behind all three.

Police haven’t said as much and are wisely keeping their options open.

Anyhow, despite a jarring and unprecedented warning from the WPS for people in the area to remain in their homes and not answer their doors to strangers directly after the shootings, police quickly locked down the crime scenes and flooded the area with officers.

A mobile command centre is set up in the area a day and half later.

Over the next few days — continuing as I write this — there are scores of police officers in the North End proper, either shaking down potential suspects, scouring for leads in the shootings or otherwise keeping a lid on things.

So, naturally, given the heightened level of police presence and vigilance [more officers = greater safety, remember ; ) ] My eyebrows raised up when I read, re-read and read again the remarks made by would-be NDP MP Kevin Chief in Rabson’s article:

Chief knows first-hand what crime has done to the neighbourhoods of Winnipeg North, where he has lived all his life.

“I live three streets over from one of the (shootings),” he said.

Chief and his wife welcomed their first child three weeks ago, but despite some pleasant weather since, they haven’t taken their son out in the stroller for a walk.

There is no way we’re taking our son for a walk in these circumstances,” said Chief.

Chief said there are things that can be done immediately, like improved street lighting and a heightened police presence.

For a week, police have been crawling all over the area. On the scanner, every two seconds they seem to be spot-checking people, responding to calls.

Chief says he has lived in the area all his life.

Is it a surprise to him that statistically, the level of crime hasn’t changed in two years — and it could even be said it’s dropped in terms of the number of shootings.

But a man who wants to be an elected member of the federal government — wants to lead and represent people who live in a very troubled area — says the current “circumstances” are keeping him and his family indoors. He wouldn’t dare head outside.

To me, that’s got me scratching my head.

The message from leaders, (would-be or elected) should be:

We’re not going to let the thugs, the degenerates and the reprobates keep us cowering inside or homes. We’re going to rise up and start calling police, the powerline  — whatever — if we’re seeing suspicious stuff or crimes taking place.

‘The police are doing their part, now we can do ours,‘ is what I’d be expecting to hear if I was voter in the area.

The last lines of the article also had me scratching my head, but a slight smile on my lips.

Conservative candidate Julie Javier was canvassing Thursday and could not be reached for an interview.

Nice to know not everyone’s afraid to go outside.

Chief’s right about the lighting, tho.