Politics

Police Budget Shakedown

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 14, 2011

this blog entry has been updated.

Well, this is just ridiculous. The Spectator reports that Hamilton Police Services has refused to adjust its budget request for a five percent increase over last year, even after Council sent it back for revision.

[Councillor] Lloyd Ferguson, who spearheaded the pushback against the 5 percent increase request, said the police are the only board or agency who ignored the city's guideline to base their increase request on the inflation rate.

Under Provincial law, Police Services Boards are not required to publish line-by-line details of police budgets, and Council is not allowed to challenge specific budget allocations. They can only accept or reject the budget in its entirety. However, the law does not prevent Boards from disclosing budget details. Some cities, like Toronto, do provide detailed budget breakdowns.

Police Services are an integral part of a functioning city and deserve to be funded properly - but so is every other city department, and they were all able to make the compromises and find the savings to meet Council's directive to hold down their budget increases.

In contrast, the police budget demands and receives large increases every year, year after year. It's just astonishing that they would flat-out refuse to accept Council's directive to come in line with other departments.

In the letter, [Nancy DiGregorio, chair of the Police Services Board] said the police board met April 8 to take another look at the budget. The board met behind closed doors, did not notify the public, and did not list the meeting on its website.

"Therein lies the problem," said Councillor Brad Clark. "I didn't see the budget. I have no idea what's the in the budget. The public has no idea what's in the budget. We have no idea. The whole thing was in private."

Rubbing it in further, Police Chief Glenn de Caire has already stated that Council can expect a similar increase next year.

That sense of entitlement is an insult to the taxpayers who have to foot a bill they are not even allowed to see.

In the absence of transparency, it is difficult to swallow the claim that the Police budget is so different from every other budget - including emergency medical services - that it is impervious to all attempts to hold the line on spending.


Update: Nancy DiGregario's letter to Council is available in PDF on the City website.


Update 2: This blog entry originally read in part, "Provincial law prevents Councillors from seeing details of the police budget...", which is not correct. You can jump to the changed paragraph.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By jasper (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 10:12:39

honestly sometimes I don't know if public unions have any ethics whatsoever. At a time when increases are generally frozen they deliver a 5% increase. After a year when the police already pillaged the treasury for paid-duty at the G20. And only because there's no political will to reign them in. In Wisconsin they gut collective bargaining...but not for cops and firefighters. Hero worship or police state?

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By Thomas (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2012 at 21:44:11 in reply to Comment 62244

“What is it about winter that brings out the worst in some people? This winter is only half over and already it has been as cold as the icicles on a polar bear’s nose, but let’s get a grip on the situation? This is CN and it’s February.

Surely everyone who has chosen to live in this great country realizes CN’s climate is 10 months of winter and two months of bad ice.

He was thinking of the weather last week while slip-sliding along an icy sidewalk in my neighborhood. According to Environment, the total of snowfall (measured at Ham Airport) in the winter of 2002-2003 was 82.2 cm. In the winter before that we received 100.9 cm., and in 2000-2001, 154.5 cm. of snow in this area. The good news is that we seem to be getting less snow each year. By the winter of 2050, we should be strolling in shorts through the Royal Botanical Gardens. For now, we have little choice but to endure this chilly season, because there are three things that are certain about life in CN: death, taxes and winter. (There are also three rules to help get us through winter; unfortunately no one knows what they are.)

During an acrobatic walk on that glacial, frost-bitten day, as I gingerly maneuvered my way home along the snowy sidewalk, I devised some helpful, Zen-like tips that might help us get through this weather. (You may take them with a grain of salt!)

1. Never test the depth of the snow with both feet.
2. If you’re worried that no one knows you’re alive, drive really slowly on Barton Street after a snowfall.
3. If you HAVE to drive on Barton Street in winter, drive slowly but think quickly!
4. Do not walk behind me on a snowy, icy Ham sidewalk, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either. Just leave me the heck alone so I can get home without having to call for assistance.
5. Probably the most important one: never, ever miss an opportunity to go SOUTH for the winter.

Credit: The Spectator

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:18:19 in reply to Comment 62244

Ahh the dog-whistle of blaming the unions.

Every other branch of publicly-funded work is unionized, and they all managed to avoid these large increases. That's in spite of the Board of Ed showing massive growth on their sunshine list - growth that cannot be explained by union contracts, because the kind of administrative staff that makes these sunshine lists aren't part of the union.

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By jasper (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 13:49:13 in reply to Comment 62256

who's responsible for this increase if not the union?

As for your school board example, I have trouble seeing principals' increases on the sunshine list as in any way indicating that unions are not benefiting equally or more.
Maybe you're a teacher and you can tell me. But the last time I checked school board administrators weren't exactly locked in class struggle with teachers.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 10:24:36

As a health care professional, my and my colleagues' wages have been frozen for several years. No increase at all, not even one to keep up with inflation.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 10:44:05

This is getting kicked around over on SSP as well.

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=190016

And here's DiGregorio's memo in PDF: http://goo.gl/iJ8vb

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:00:56

Another footnote from SSP.

AP: Budget Means Cuts for Police Force: Bloomberg
>> http://goo.gl/AzAEt

Hard economic times mean that New York City will have to reduce the size of its police force, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday.

"We cannot afford the size police force, fire department, of any of these agencies if we have a $400 million deficit," said the mayor, referring to the state budget passed Thursday that the city said failed to deliver roughly $400 million in savings that the mayor had demanded.

Shortly afterward, he said the city was on track to set a record low in murders and crime even though the city has cut the number of New York Police Department officers on the payroll by more than 5,000 since 2002.

"Just think about that. The job is not to spend as much as you can. The job is to provide the service you need and then do it as efficiently as you can," Bloomberg said.

Still, spokesman Marc LaVorgna said a few hours later, the administration does "not anticipate layoffs of uniformed officers will be necessary."

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association police union declined to comment.


$ $ $


I don't know if this adds perspective or just murk, but...

A cursory Google search reveals that New York State (population 19 million) is dealing with a $10 billion deficit and looking at $132.5 billion in 2011 spending >> http://goo.gl/ax1zp

Ontario (population 13 million) is dealing with a $16.7 billion deficit and looking at $123-billion in 2011 spending >> http://goo.gl/jXR1S

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:05:03 in reply to Comment 62248

The difference is that health care spending in New York is private (people pay out of pocket) whereas health care spending in Ontario is public (people pay for it in their taxes). This creates the apparent disparity.

  • Joey

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:29:20

Ah, yes. If memory serves, Ontario has just upped its health care spending is $48 billion. In the absence of a forensic accountant, let's say for sake of argument that a 40% of the province's annual expenditure is on health care, and strip that 40% out of the spending as well as the deficit.

In current Canadian dollars:

2011 New York: $9.64 billion deficit, $127.7 billion spending

2011 Ontario: $10 billion deficit, $74 billion deficit

Smaller budget outlay, but break it down to a per capita our spending looks more judicious – 68% of NY State population but 58% of NY State's annual outlay – although the disparity in per capita deficit load kind of levels things out.

In more arbitary math, going back to SSP it looks like Criminal Code Offences in Hamilton dropped about 24% in the period 2003-2009. Anyone have figures on how the HPS budgets increased over that period?



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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 22:49:47 in reply to Comment 62251

>> Anyone have figures on how the HPS budgets increased over that period?

From 2003-09, the "protection services" item in the city budget increased from $167.9M to $233.9M, an average increase of 5.7% a year. In that same period of time, residential assessment/capita increased by 6.0%.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 18:15:50 in reply to Comment 62251

Ontario public health spending - $46.1B, ~ 3.492k/capita
N.Y. public health spending - $51.5B, ~ $2,654/capita

Budgets, minus health care:

Ontario... $125.9 - $46.1 = $79.8B, $6.045/capita
N.Y... $154.5B - $51.5B = $103B, $5,309/capita

Budgets minus health care and interest charges

Ontario... $79.8B - $10.0B = $69.8B, $5,288/capita
N.Y....$103B - $1.9B = $101.1B, $5,211/capita

However, if you look at these numbers as a percent of GDP, they look like this...

Ontario... $69.8B/$592.2B = 11.7%
N.Y.... $101.1B/$1,114B = 9.0%

Therefore, even if you strip out health care spending, Ontario's government is 30% bigger than N.Y as a percent of our economy.

In 2002-03, the numbers looked like this...

$71.9B total spending - $25.8B health spending
- $9.7B interest charges = $36B

$36B / $477.8B GDP = 7.54% of GDP.

In fact, from 2002-03 to 2010-11 under Dalton McGuinty, total program spending in Ontario has increased at a rate of 7.5% per year (not adjusted for inflation). In contrast, the economy has grown by only 2.72% a year (not adjusted for inflation).

Even after all of this government spending, the child poverty rate has increased under Dalton McGuinty ( tinyurl.com/6e8vogf ), while it fell under Mike Harris.

Under Mike Harris from 1996-2003, inflation adjusted incomes for all Ontarian's grew at a rate of 5.6%. Under Dalton McGuinty, incomes have only grown 3.7% a year. By putting more people in the non competitive public sector, the result is slower productivity growth and slower wage growth.

I don't have the provincial numbers, but since Ontario is about 40% of Canada's economy, these numbers help to illustrate this fact. From 1996-2003, labour productivity in Canada increased by an average of 2.05% a year. From 2003-08, labour productivity has only grown at a rate of 0.6% a year.



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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:50:04 in reply to Comment 62251

Ack. That second revised "2011 Ontario" figure should obviously read "$74 billion spending", not "$74 billion deficit".

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:34:53 in reply to Comment 62251

Anyone have figures on how the HPS budgets increased over that period?

I haven't seen the figures, but assuming an annual 5% increase, the cumulative increase over that time would be 40.7%.

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:32:07

Maybe if the spent less time ticketing jaywalkers they wouldn't need a 5% increase every year.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:46:07

Closer to home, Halton Regional Police went in looking for a 6.9% budget increase and walked away with a 4.4% budget increase.

http://goo.gl/sS8Bx
http://goo.gl/a3a7y

I guess Halton just has bigger walnuts than Hamilton.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:29:12

I know it wouldn't save 5% of the total budget but why is this guy still on the payroll ...Charged TWICE now with quite serious offenses ... http://www.thespec.com/news/article/5168...

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 17:20:27

The nationwide average for police budget increases the last decade is about 40%. Hamilton's growth has been about half that from some sources (Amalgamation makes it difficult, and catch reports a 68% total increase since then). Either way it's well beyond what most departments have received.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/nati...

http://www.hamiltoncatch.org/view_articl...

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 00:51:43

Actually the law does not prevent councilors from seeing the budget details, it simply gives the Police the right not to divulge the details if it so wishes. For example in Toronto the police budget is available on line.

Can the council simply refuse to pass the police budget until they see a number they can live with? I get the feeling that the police board is playing a big game of chicken and are betting that council blinks first. I would love to see the police live with a 0% increase. I understand that being a police officer is a dangerous job but no more so than other positions, like the armed forces.

Why are we paying them the high wages that we are? In 2008 at least 15% of the officers (124 of 787) were making in excess of $100,000. There is a long list of people trying to get on to the force. If we lower wages by 10% are we likely to see any loss of potential recruits or quality of service? (Thank you Hamiltoncatch.org)

Can the local police not confiscate property and cash from apprehended criminals, or is this reserved for provincial and national forces? Let them put some more effort into getting funding.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 09:39:31

If a football team can cow council, you can bet that the police force will have no trouble at all.

http://www.thespec.com/opinion/article/517321--police-board-s-budget-security-obscene

Looking at today's Spec, I was struck by the readiness with which HPS divulge stats that are in their interest – in this case, itemized data related to a meticulously timed $3 million meth bust (and, uh, yeah, the police *never* inflate the street valuation of illicit drugs... one more reason to never buy junk from a cop... such as the HPS constable arrested in the meth bust) – but are notoriously closed when it comes to releasing data. Even to the communities they serve.

Cruise the HPS website's "Communities & Neighbourhoods" sub-page and take a gander at the kind of discrepencies that your tax dollars support. Even at the system's highest level of transparency – Westdale (home to McMaster and, if I'm not mistaken, Mr. Dreschel) – Beat Tracker results are available for 2007 (the year all HPS beat crime reporting seems to stop). And they're incomplete at that.

http://www.hamiltonpolice.on.ca/HPS/Communities/Division+1/D1S1Westdale.htm
http://www.hamiltonpolice.on.ca/HPS/Communities/Division+1/divethreebeattracker.htm

No other neighbourhoods/beats in the city have access to such detailed information. In fact, most other neighbourhoods receive no information at all, except by way of the HPS’s city-wide news releases, FOI inquiries or the Spec's sensationally selective Police Blotter. And don't even bother with HPS Media Relations, a PR flack that may as well be Chief DeCaire's sock puppet.

As Mr. Dreschel points out, the Toronto Police Services at least can claim the high ground of line-item transparency. As corruption- and scandal-plagued as that force has been, at least its demons stand chance of being exposed. Who knows what lurks behind the shield on King William? Law enforcement's mercenary self-interest ("To Serve and Protect" is, after all, non-specific) is a Moebius loop. That fosters not only inefficiency, but worse – as individuals like Kevin Dhinsa, David Doel, Rick Wills, Hoang Pham, Douglas Sephton, Kevin Farrell and Andrew Pauls flout the laws they have sworn to uphold.

http://www.thespec.com/opinion/editorial/article/512359--nothing-left-but-a-bad-smell

http://www.ancasternews.com/news/article/209475

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/508455--cop-faces-9-police-act-charges

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/507423--cop-on-house-arrest-appeals-sentence

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/478566--hamilton-cop-charged-with-arson

http://hamilton-on.ca/2011/04/police-officer-faces-nine-misconduct-charges-after-drunk-driving-arrest/

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/510441--shamed-constables-ordered-to-stay-out-of-trouble

http://www.900chml.com/Channels/Reg/NewsLocalGeneral/Story.aspx?ID=1402371

Hamilton's finest.

But, by all means, keep us distracted with the real wrongdoers: buskers and jaywalkers.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2011 at 09:56:58 in reply to Comment 62338

NB: 2007 may not be an entirely arbitrary cut-off date. It was the year of release of the report on the botched surrender of Corey Rogers and the police tribunal clearing Kevin Dhinsa on a technicality.

As well, 2007 featured two high-profile wrongful arrest cases: Jason George Hill and Michael Dixon.

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/200417--hill-case-helped-establish-right-to-sue-police

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/221696--wrongfully-jailed-man-says-police-report-overdue

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/220631--report-on-arrest-probe-nears-completion-mullan
http://www.thespec.com/opinion/article/216681--quit-as-hpsb-chair-group-tells-morelli

And a handful of charges brought against police:

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/226336--cop-accused-of-scuttling-her-cases

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/191680--alcohol-abuse-sent-officer-off-the-rails

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/212605--cop-gets-jail-time-and-probation

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/211450--special-constable-arrested-in-raid

And of course bittersweet experience with transparency:

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/225344--councillor-sets-off-sparks-over-firecracker-in-mailbox

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/179132--tasers-oops-not-nil-but-one-no-make-that-7

Overall, a pretty good year.

http://www.thespec.com/opinion/article/188571--police-chief-mayor-show-strong-leadership

http://www.thespec.com/opinion/letters/article/184133--councillor-has-full-confidence-in-chief

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 15, 2011 at 10:22:50 in reply to Comment 62338

Council wasn't cowed by the team itself, but by the talk radio circuit and the public's fear of losing their beloved Cats.

The public doesn't love the cops they way they love the Cats, and CH isn't carrying a torch for them either. The media's drum beat is matching Council's actually - every other branch of municipal service has held back the tide of rising costs except for the police services.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 15, 2011 at 12:03:25

It's pretty impressive how far the pendulum has swung in the past year. For a decade the police got everything they asked for, and to criticize that was near sacrilege. Now, as noted above, it's almost unanimous.

What's happened in the last year? The G20, for starters. A whole pile of nasty police brutality caught on camera. And widespread investigation into the SIU which found a culture of near impunity.

http://www.maydaymagazine.ca/issues/apri...

BTW: The one thing I am against is underpaying cops. No reason to convince them to find income elsewhere...

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 07:27:09

I don't doubt that it exists, but even more than the meth bust, it's hard not to be cynical about the timing.

http://www.thespec.com/news/crime/article/518010--street-gangs-on-the-rise

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 17, 2011 at 22:02:51 in reply to Comment 62364

"Gangs on the rise"...yet not a single line from the article can justify that statement. There are more than there were last year, but no word on why - have established gangs fractured, or are more starting up? Is the lack of "turf" truly because gangs are evolving? Or is it because none actually have the manpower to enforce borders?

There's a total lack of any numbers that might put this in perspective. How many crimes are they committing? Is that up or down? What percentage of all crime is gang-related? What are the membership estimates? Are they connected elsewhere? And who are the gangs they aren't mentioning?

The best quote is where the Detective from Gangs and Weapons states that 85-90% of their work is gang related. Uhh...yeah. The police invest enormous amounts of time and money looking for "gangs". It makes for great press - and sometimes that's needed. Like when the opposing story involves the anguish of family members of a kid shot by police.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 07:35:14 in reply to Comment 62364

Oh, and about that headline?

"In Hamilton, police interacted with 22 street gangs last year. That's up from 14 in 2008.... although local police are more aware of gangs now because of better intelligence, they don't know if that actually means there are more gangs in the city."

Classic!





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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 06:39:25

Hamilton’s police board has voted to survey other services across the province to compare its budget’s transparency.

The motion was introduced by Councillor Terry Whitehead at Monday night’s police board meeting, because he says there is public “misinformation” about the budget process.

It comes amid controversy about the public’s access to the budget after the board rejected an unprecedented request from the city to take a second look at the police budget, which is this year seeking a nearly 5 per cent increase.

Police Chief Glenn De Caire said the budget is a board matter, but he offered the services of the police to help with the research.

“I’m almost convinced we’ll end up right where we began,” said Councillor Bernie Morelli.

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/518885--police-seek-transparency-comparison-with-other-services


"Almost convinced" is diplomatic. It sounds to me like they're just looking for some opaque cases so that they can claim greater transparency.

To state the obvious, law enforcement and daily newspapers benefit from the perception that crime is rampant and civilization hangs in the balance.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 12:17:35 in reply to Comment 62438

Coincidentally, comments are unavailable for this article.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2011 at 15:10:06 in reply to Comment 62461

Pretty much par for the course these days for any article in the Canadian press about cops. People are not happy.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2011 at 10:07:31

Agreed. Obviously a PR reflex related to the budget – even though gang unit money in the past has come from the province and feds (during election cycles, of course).

We read that "Hamilton police will identify half of the gangs they interacted with last year" but that "the other half meet internal police criteria to be labelled a 'street gang' but haven't previously been made public or identified in court as gangs."

So we're possibly looking at 11 criminal gangs, down from 14 last year. After all, the other 11 are organizations that haven't been charged with any criminal offences. And no, you obviously can't see the criteria, or any other details about what they're up to.

The perils of embedded reporting. (Any journalists who are working on long-form features or books that require official participation will often be equally susceptible to this kind of fact-esque newsishness.)

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2011 at 10:11:24 in reply to Comment 62499

Typo!

"...we're possibly looking at 11 criminal gangs, down from 14 in 2008."

Coffee!

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2011 at 09:06:42

"Before the night even begins, Turner is on Twitter telling his followers where he’ll be. Under HPSActionTeam4, he has more than 470 followers and counting, and has tweeted nearly 2,000 times. The team’s first tweet was July 14..... ACTION’s effectiveness has also been questioned. Despite nearly a year of work, the downtown remains a hot spot for violent crime. Nearly 60 per cent of the city’s violent crime takes place there. But Turner says crime is always going to be more prevalent in downtown areas of cities. He questions whether that’s a fair way to measure the team’s effectiveness.... Team 4’s focus is drugs..."

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/520182--action-on-the-streets-and-online

Maybe not the best acronym, then?

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2011 at 09:13:06 in reply to Comment 62542

Also, since "the downtown remains a hot spot for violent crime," wary readers will want to avoid ACTION’s top five target areas in Hamilton:

• Jackson Square/Gore Park/King William Street;

• Sanford Avenue/Tisdale Street;

• Hess Village;

• James Street/Ferguson Avenue North;

• Wellington Street/West Avenue

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