Last Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2008 | 11:11 AM PT
With property crime rates soaring in Vancouver, police have been forced to create a new class of criminals — lawbreakers that cops have dubbed "super chronic offenders."
For the past two years, the Vancouver Police Department has been trying to take a bite out of property crime by targeting the city's worst chronic offenders.
In the rest of Canada, when someone commits five or more crimes in a calendar year, they're classified as a "chronic" offender by police.
But in Vancouver that list was too long to handle effectively, so police raised the bar from five offences to 12 offences, leaving them with a more manageable list of 371 "super chronic" offenders.
Sgt. John Rennie, who runs the VPD's chronic offender program, said police know that taking just one chronic offender off the street can actually lead to a drop in the crime rate.
"Some guys will go out and they'll break into 15 or 20 cars in [the] daytime. They are that prolific. They will go into an area and they will literally devastate an area," Rennie told CBC reporter Stephen Quinn.
Program working, say police
Once a suspect is arrested, one of the goals of the chronic offenders program is to convince the courts to hand out tougher sentences, and police and the Crown both say the program is working.
When officers arrest someone on the list of super chronic offenders, police focus on gathering more information about the lifestyle and record of the suspect, before the case goes to trial.
That closer tracking of the offenders gives the Crown the ammunition it needs to convince judges longer sentences are needed.
"What we do is we send over a full package on the history of these individuals and the judges are better able to make informed decisions," said Rennie.
And the judges are listening, according to Crown lawyer Peter Stabler, who prosecutes chronic offenders.
"The response has been very good. Now that they get a much wider consolidated picture they are responding appropriately, detaining and handing out reasonably substantial sentences," said Stabler.
"You are getting more, usually a greater sentence, and spending more time in jail and a longer probation because everything is brought together."
At the very least, a longer sentence means the super chronic offenders aren't smashing car windows and breaking into homes, said Rennie.
But both Rennie and Stabler say the point is not to lock up offenders and throw away the key, but for a small percentage of criminals, the only thing that will stop them from breaking the law is time behind bars.
And in some cases, when they are released, police set up surveillance and arrest them if they commit crimes again.
"We tell 'em, 'We will put surveillance teams on you. We will follow you. We will arrest you,' and we're true to our word," said Rennie.
Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu has promised to reduce property crime in Vancouver by 20 per cent over the next five years.
CBC News - British Columbia - Vancouver police target 'super chronic' offenders
This to me does not get enough news. Put those who commit dozens of property crimes in jail for years in a nice country club. Teach them how to read and get off drugs. But get them off the street. I had my car broken into, I don't like it.
Then build more social housing