Opinion: The government is awash with reports and analyzes on how to handle dangerous, repeat criminals. So the decision to opt for consultation was a disappointment

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VICTORIA — Attorney General David Eby gave every indication this week that he would soon be rolling out “creative” solutions to the plague of chronic offenders and random attacks on city streets.

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He said so himself during question period in the legislature while under fire over what the Opposition branded as a “catch-and-release” justice system.

“Clearly, when someone has had literally dozens of convictions — the Crown has prosecuted, they’ve been to court, the judge has found them guilty and sentenced them — and this activity continues when they’re released from those sentences, we need a solution that goes beyond the current system,” Eby conceded in the house on Tuesday.

“I expect to have an announcement in the coming days about what exactly we will be doing to be creative to address these issues.”

Lest there be any misunderstanding, the attorney general repeated himself a half dozen times.

Six times he promised action “in the coming days.” Five times, he said the response would be “creative.”

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So expectations were high when the government sent out a media advisory that Eby would be presiding over an “announcement about keeping communities safe.”

But the letdown was palpable Thursday when Eby announced that the province “has retained two experts to investigate and report back within 120 days on the escalation of criminal activity among prolific offenders and the increase in some communities of random violent attacks, and the targeted activities necessary.” to address them.”

His chosen experts were Doug LePard, a former deputy police chief in Vancouver, and Amanda Butler, a researcher and criminologist at Simon Fraser University.

They were asked to reach out to affected people and experts with a view to developing “clear definitions of the problem” and “suggestions on policy and legislative responses that are in provincial government jurisdiction.”

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They will sort proposals through the government has already received, like “real time electronic monitoring of those already identified as chronic offenders.”

They are also asked to identify “compulsory supports and programs … that could respond to the unique needs of this group of offenders.”

The reaction to the announcement, judging from reporters’ questions, was one of disbelief.

Eby’s ministry overflows with reports, submissions and suggestions on what to do about a problem that has been building for months, if not years.

He knows the legal and jurisdictional issues in depth, judging from several weeks worth of answers he’s given in response to persistent hammering from the Opposition.

Why did he need to hire two experts to tell him what the government can do?

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“What is needed is someone to go to the front lines to meet with the police who are doing this work, to talk with the Crown who are doing this work, to talk with the social service agencies and others to figure out what’s happening on the ground and to use that information to inform their analysis of what’s been suggested to us,” replied Eby.

“We want the expert advice before we go to all the work of implementing something that doesn’t work.”

As for the 120 days, he confirmed that the timing was partly political, with an eye to the October civic elections.

BC majors, two of whom were with Eby Thursday, have been calling for the province to take action against chronic offenders.

“I want to give them something going into their elections to point to the action that’s being taken, because they brought this issue to the provincial government, and we took action on it.

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Eby maintains that the experts will not necessarily be holding back all the options for the full 120 days.

“We’ve also asked if they identify potential solutions that do not need to wait for the report, that they advise the government of these opportunities as quickly as possible.”

Eby defended the two track approach — interim solutions combined with a final report — as having worked before, when the government tackled money laundering and ICBC rates under his direction.

But money laundering, while not a victimless crime, was not unnerving the public over unsafe streets or ruining small businesses through an epidemic of shoplifting and window smashing. Likewise the ICBC dumpster fire, while hard on the pocket book, was not a threat to public safety like the recent spate of random, violent attacks.

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The New Democrats know very well how bad it is out there.

Eby: “Well, this is obviously a very pressing issue for community members in cities that are seeing an upswing in this kind of attack. It causes people, especially vulnerable people, to be reluctant to go about their usual activities and can have an effect in terms of a downtown core where people stop going downtown and then businesses leave and it is a vicious cycle.”

Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth, who played a supporting role at the announcement: “There is a small group of prolific offenders who repeatedly victimize British Columbians. They account for a disproportionate number of crimes, including unprovoked random attacks, violence, graffiti, shoplifting, and property damage. We recognize the damage that prolific offenders inflict on BC families, businesses, and neighborhoods.”

There’s not a chance that these chronic, out-of-control perpetrators will hold off for four months while Eby’s hand-picked experts review his correspondence, consult, define the problem and work up responses.

While the mayhem continues, Eby’s announcement last week amounted to nothing more than the sound of a can being kicked down the road.

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