HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Community Loses With Tattle-Tale Justice
Pubdate: Sun, 14 Mar 2004
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Column: Reasonable Doubt
Copyright: 2004 The Toronto Star
Author: Alan Young
Note: Alan Young is a law professor, criminal lawyer and author of Justice 
Defiled: Perverts, Potheads, Serial Killers & Lawyers (Key Porter).
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


"I spy with my little eye ... something that is green."

This simple children's game has now become a tool of law enforcement. 
Warning of the coming Armageddon of super-evil pot growers armed with 
dangerous hydroponic equipment, bacterial agents and high-intensity lights, 
the police have now asked the public to report any homes emitting pungent 

Despite seeking a budget of $688 million for the coming year in Toronto 
alone, the police say they lack sufficient resources to combat the 
proliferation of grow-ops. Not willing to admit defeat, the Ministry of 
Community Safety and the Association of Chiefs of Police held a summit last 
month at which members of the public, real estate and insurance agents, and 
hydro officials were all recruited to help the police root out criminal 
horticulturalists. While the police were trying to deputize a horde of 
snitches, the gun violence in Scarborough continued to explode.

In principle, I embrace increased community participation in the 
administration of criminal justice; however, it would be far more 
productive for the police to foster a community response to increasing gang 
violence. Concerned residents must be provided with safe avenues for 
reporting gang activity without fear of reprisal. This is far more valuable 
that relying upon real estate agents to assess the moral character of their 

Fostering a culture of community surveillance is healthy when the community 
is unified in its concerns and fears. Clearly, there is a consensus about 
gang violence, but the debate continues over the proper legal response to 
marijuana. The peering eyes of a neighbourhood watch can be remarkably 
divisive and unhealthy if the community has mixed opinions about the 
dangers of the conduct under surveillance.

So to convince a community of the dangers of grow-ops, the police produce 
unsubstantiated statistics about fires, rotting floorboards, toxic 
chemicals and huge economic losses due to theft of hydro. I think the 
police have constructed an imaginary monster, but if they are right about 
the fires, the explosions, the rot and the mould, then why would they need 
the community to be their eyes and ears? Eventually, all the growers will 
be discovered with little investigative effort as houses collapse or go up 
in flames.

In the past few decades, the calls to increase community participation 
spoke to a vision of restorative justice in which compassion, authenticity 
and social harmony would be the defining features. Now restorative justice 
has been traded for tattle-tale justice, and in that trade the community 
can only stand to lose. A peaceful neighbourhood is unattainable when 
neighbours snoop on each other for signs of criminality to report to 
authorities for small rewards.

The real irony of this call for community surveillance is that it 
represents a return to a system of justice we condemned more than 150 years 
ago. Before the birth of professional prosecutors and professional police 
forces in the latter half of the 19th century, the community policed itself.

To foster an effective community response, the state exploited people's 
basic emotions of fear and greed. The historical fear factor is obviously 
represented by the fact that we publicly executed criminals for more than 
350 capital offences.

The greed factor is a bit less obvious. In the early days of the common law 
we relied upon the concept of "hue and cry" by which every able-bodied 
person in the community was legally obligated to assist in apprehending the 
criminal. Heavy fines would be imposed upon citizens who failed to respond 
to the "hue and cry" of a victim of crime.

When increased mobility and urbanization fragmented communities, it became 
impossible to determine who was a community member for the purpose of the 
hue and cry. So we turned to a detailed system of rewards as the catalyst 
for community involvement. The roots of modern policing were founded upon a 
state policy of paying private citizens for the apprehension of criminals.

In the mid-19th century, professional law enforcement was established 
largely because relying upon fear and greed proved to be ineffective, 
corrupt and a recipe for miscarriages of justice.

More than 127,000 people currently work in the Canadian criminal justice 
industrial complex and it costs more than $11 billion annually to keep the 
system running. Nonetheless, the police believe they are still ill-equipped 
to fight the green tide of cultivation crime, so they are prepared to dish 
out lots of blood money for anyone who responds to their cries for help. 
The ancient "hue and cry" has been replaced by the modern "rat and pay."
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