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Crime a community issue

This is the second instalment in a four-part series examining the effects of Nunavut's high crime rate. Names appearing in this story are fictitious to protect the identity of the speakers, both of whom are victims of crime.

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Dec 04/06) - Crime was something that always happened to other people for Kivalliq resident John Doe-Nanuq.

To him, many crimes would never have happened if the victims had just been more careful.

And Doe-Nanuq was also quite careful. He never left his keys in his vehicles, lived in a quiet area of town and always made sure his house was locked when he went out.

To his way of thinking, he was well-insulated from crime in his community.

That all changed the day he pulled into his driveway and noticed a window in his house had been broken.

Although he never kept cash in his home, the damage was considerable.

After dealing with the police and compiling a list of everything taken, the feeling of being violated began to set in.

"I didn't realize how deep the feeling goes inside you when something like this happens," said Doe-Nanuq.

"You feel a great deal of anger and there's a sense of loss because your little world isn't so safe anymore.

"You can't help but think about what might have happened if someone had been home and that's, perhaps, the scariest part of all."

Doe-Nanuq has another worry concerning the break-in at his home.

A rifle was among the items taken and that has him fearing the worst.

"I know rifles get stolen a lot in these types of break-ins, but that doesn't ease your mind when it's yours.

"Even though I did nothing wrong, I'd have a hard time dealing with it if something bad happens in the community as a result of the gun being stolen.

"It's also not very comforting to know someone capable of committing an act like this has access to a powerful weapon."

Kivalliq business person Tom Brown has seen his share of theft and vandalism over the years. Brown said what bothers him most is the loss of the sense of community that used to exist in his hamlet.

He said individuals now put their own wants above everything else in the region's larger communities.

"You don't see the same rate of crime in the smaller hamlets because they still tend to deal with it as a community," said Brown.

"We may have had less crime here years ago, but there were still cases of a man beating his wife or someone stealing from their neighbour.

"But there was shame attached to that behaviour.

"You still see that to a certain extent in the smaller communities, but not so much in the bigger hamlets."

On average, Kivalliq police say violent crime has been on the decline during the past few years. In Rankin Inlet, better reporting procedures have been cited as the reason slight increases have been noted.

Neither Doe-Nanuq nor Brown put too much stock in statistics. Too them, apathy and silence are of far-greater concern.

"You tend to look closer when you've become a target or victim of crime yourself," said Doe-Nanuq.

"It's different here in that you still feel safe walking home from a community event late at night, yet you know people are affected by crime," he said.

"But the crime here isn't as random as it tends to be in the south."

Brown agrees, saying communities have to pull together to keep the situation from growing worse.

"Silence is the big enemy in getting crime in our communities under control.

"We have the resources to make a difference if we start talking and dealing with it as a community.

"Too much of what we see isn't the mischief of the past, it's mean natured.

"Mean kids grow up to be mean adults if something isn't done to show them they're on the wrong path."