Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Recent Crimes in Newfoundland Spurred Public Safety Rebrand, New Minister Says

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Recent Crimes in Newfoundland Spurred Public Safety Rebrand, New Minister Says

Article excerpt

Newfoundland crime changing: new minister

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - A recent spate of violent crime inspired the "rebranding" of Newfoundland and Labrador's Justice department, says the new public safety minister and attorney general.

But Judy Manning is downplaying concerns that the rare move to absorb the Justice department into her new portfolio amounts to fear mongering.

"We want to respond to the issues that are facing us with respect to the public's concerns of safety that we've seen raised," she said Thursday in an interview.

Manning cited "a host of recent incidents" including shootings, a series of home invasions in St. John's and the stabbing last week of an 11-year-old boy on a soccer field in nearby Conception Bay South.

"The nature of the crimes that we're seeing in this province has changed and we're determined to respond to that," she said. "We want to ensure that our people feel safe and secure here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we're doing our best to make that happen."

Premier Paul Davis made what he calls "the new face of crime" a central message in his push for the Progressive Conservative leadership. The former police officer, who was sworn in Friday, named former Royal Newfoundland Constabulary chief Joe Browne as his head of staff.

Defence lawyer Bob Simmonds is among those questioning whether the newly revamped government is focusing on isolated attacks to win votes. He said it's an approach that, like the federal government's law-and-order agenda, flies in the face of falling crime rates.

"This almost looks like a knee-jerk ... reaction done to try to capitalize somewhat on the same philosophy that the prime minister utilizes," he said.

"You know, if I can make people believe the streets are not safe and I'm going to make them safe for them, that's a vote-getter."

Bob Buckingham, another St. John's defence lawyer, was more blunt.

"It's all nonsense," he said. "This is politics without principle. This is a police agenda. This is a fear-mongering agenda.

"Justice is one of the fundamental cornerstones of a free and democratic society," he said of a department that has roots stretching back to 1898. …

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