Coun. Kyle Sampson did the right thing at the last Prince George city council meeting, apologizing for referring to frequent lawbreakers as “a bunch of losers.” Elected officials take an oath to represent all residents, the ones who voted for them and the ones who didn’t, the people who obey the law and those who don’t, winners and losers alike.
Take away the word “losers” and substitute it with “criminals” and there’s little controversy in what Sampson said. Residents can debate the merits of his further comments, that police should use their power to harass the most frequent offenders, but that can be done respectfully and without name-calling.
It would have been better if his apology had come less than three weeks after he made the initial comments back on Feb. 7 but an overdue sorry is better than none. Many readers have said on our website that Sampson spoke the truth and he had nothing to apologize for but to those folks, please read what he said in his apology and follow his example.
“I oversimplified a rather complex matter,” he said. “I have begun to understand the nuances of crime,” he added, noting that his choice of words lumped in “those who are vulnerable, dehoused or struggling with poverty and living with mental health disorders.”
But let’s for a moment agree the word “losers” applies here. If that is the case, doesn’t that then force the “winners” to do something about it, something more than just lording their status over others? Losers, in sports or life, would like to be winners, too. Hey, “winners,” what are you doing to change things except complaining that you’re the real victims here and demanding “somebody do something?”
Of course, law enforcement and jail is an option for frequent, low-level criminals but the final option, when all else fails. Jails protect law-abiding citizens but they are also a boarding school for crime, where minor offenders too often learn little more than how to be lifelong criminals.
Addressing poverty, addiction, trauma, housing and mental health are proven methods to reduce the amount of minor crime because they focus on the people. Take care of the person and their antisocial and illegal behaviour takes care of itself. When firefighters are called into action, they don’t fight the smoke, they fight the fire and the smoke goes away in the process.
Sampson said he loves Prince George and his comments were the result of his frustration. As an elected official, he and his colleagues at the local, regional, provincial and federal level are the “somebodies” with the power and authority to “do something.” But they can’t do it alone.
We all have a role to play in making our communities safer. When we do that, everyone wins.