Saturday, October 24, 2009

Theater of the Absurd - Protect Your Living, Go To Jail

Support David Chen

I was shocked and horrified to read the blog posting that SF had here Scary Fundamentalist: Protect Your Living, Go To Jail. Okay, shocked a bit, but not really horrified or truth be told, not even really surprised.

It concerns a man in Chinatown in Toronto, David Chen is his name, who when he had had enough, along with his employees caught a thief. End of story. He's a hero. Not so fast. He went to jail and faces stiffer penalties than the thief. IN CANADA.

As the Victims Rights Action Committee (a name that sounds as presumptuous as Freedom Through Truth - my blog name) reports on their site here, this is important to them, and should be to us as well.

Here are the facts as they have them on their site:

The Business owners in the Toronto downtown core area have continuously been the target of shoplifters due to permissive law and lax enforcement effort. Shoplifting has long been considered as petty crime, the convicts hardly get anything more than a warning and slap on the wrist. Most of the shopliftings are committed by repeat offenders.

On May 23rd of 2009 around 12.44PM, Mr. Chen of Lucky Moose Food Mart on Dundas St west of Beverly St. noticed on his surveillance video that a shoplifter loaded a full box of flower and vegetable plants and left without paying. Mr. Chen knew the habit of this individual and suspected that he would return to steal some more, Sure enough at 1.28PM, the suspect showed up again and was confronted by Mr. Chen who asked for payment of previously “taken” goods. When the suspect started to run away from the premise, Mr Chen and one of his employees gave chase (all these were captured by the video camera, Please see the footage). Mr. Chen caught up with the suspect about a block away and a struggle ensued. At the same time, Mr Chen’s brother-in-law drove up to assist. The suspect was eventually subdued and placed into the van. All this happened within a few minutes.

A witness to the pursuit called the police. When the officer arrived on the location with a few minutes, Mr. Chen and his colleagues were charged with assault, forcible confinement, kidnapping and procession of concealed weapon without any chance to explain what has transpired. The group were detained in jail overnight until the following day and required $7,500 bail per person before being release back home.

The shoplifter was charged with theft and posted bail of $1,000.

We believe the police handling of this incident is WRONG. It treated victims as criminals and locked them in jail, a penalty that the shoplifter, even if convicted, will never suffer. This sends out the wrong message to the law abiding business operators and citizens, and indeed to all the intended petty criminals too. The prosecution of Mr. Chen and his helpers is a serious miscarriage of justice. It must be corrected.

There are discussion points that are also on the site based on what happened, but here they are:

When the business operators and property owners cannot protect his/her own personal possession under a safe condition; we must revisit the moral fabric of our society and our political leaders must stand up and amend the law to fit our current environment. The Toronto Police Service is exercising its privilege of selective prosecution; when the officer in this case used his/her discretion to press the charges when there is little chance of success in the court of law, this is doing more harm to the community and reputation of the police services in the Canada.

On the Charge of Assault, there were little evident or witness to support the case of excessive force used by Mr. Chen. On the video clip at 1.44PM, the suspect were revisiting the crime scene only 10/15 minutes after the incident with the police officer, the suspect clearly showing no sign of any injury from alleged major beating as some of the media had reported. You be the judge on this charge (Pl sees the video clip).

On the charge of Forcible confinement and Kidnapping, it is common practice for shopping mall management or large department store security personnel to retain shoplifting suspect at a secluded room on the premise until handing over the suspect to the police officer. Reasonable force or cuffing of the suspect does happen if the subject is resisting violently. In the Lucky Moose incident, the suspect was fighting back and attempted to run away. As a result, Mr. Chen was forced to tie him up and keep him in his van until the police arrive. Again this is selective prosecution on the largest scale.

On the charge of possession of concealed weapon, the “weapon” in this case is the box opener/cutter that most grocery store workers or construction workers would carry. In no time has Mr. Chen used the opener to threat or harm the suspect. Currently there is no license or permit requirement for carry such a tool. To charge the group for this violation is absurd.

This raised the issue that the Criminal Code allows limited right to effect citizens’ arrest only when the crime is being committed. By definition, shoplifters cannot be apprehended unless and until the crime has been completed, i.e., after they have left the premises of the store without paying. Anyone confronted while still in the store can claim that they intend to pay for the goods when they leave. To deny Mr. Chen his defence of citizens’ arrest is to provide shoplifters a free pass so long as they manage to get past the store property line.

And of course what story would be any good without further developments:

On May 27th someone claimed to be the son of the suspect visited the Lucky Moose store. This individual complained about the “beating up” of his father and threatened Mr. Chen and his family as well as the staff. As is often the case, it took the Toronto Police Service one and half hour to arrive on the store to take the report. Fortunately, there was a Toronto Star reporter, Robyn Doolittle, in the store filing a follow up story and this incident was reported on the May 28th Paper.(Pl see the attached link)

Since the May 23rd event, Mr Chen and the staff of Lucky Moose are reluctant to confront any shoplifters who choose to target the store for fear of being further charged with breaching their bail terms imposed by the court against them.

A typical case would be on May 31th, a gentleman drove up to the store and spend three to four minutes to pick out his favourite plant and slowly drove away. The total value was upward of $200 and the case was reported to the Police. Hopefully, when the Toronto Police Service is done with the higher priority matter; the officer would have the chance to look up the vehicle with the clearly indentified license plate. (Pl sees the entertaining video on this site) One hopes that the police will pursue such blatant cases of criminal activity with the same zeal it used to charge Mr. Chen.

As you can tell by the style, I did not write this, but I believe it and support the aims of its writers. The hard working police officers of the Metro Toronto Police Service have made a mistake here. They are human and are entitled. Their real job is hard enough as it is, and I have written in support of them in the past.

I urge you to go to the site and sign the petition. At the time I did, there were over 5,500 signors and that is not nearly enough to matter.

Here is the latest at the Globe site as reported by Scary Fundamentalist. Here is the basis of the Globe article:

The Crown offered vigilante shopkeeper David Chen a deal: Plead guilty to two of four criminal charges, and avoid jail time.

His lawyer's response? Not a chance.

“There is no way, shape or form that is going to happen,” Peter Lindsay said.

But the crux of the matter is in the conclusion:

Trinity-Spadina NDP MPP Rosario Marchese said he has heard a lot from frustrated shopkeepers, and is holding a meeting Friday night to discuss crime in the area. But the idea of expanding citizen's arrest laws makes him nervous, he said, adding that he hopes residents can look for alternative solutions.

“I understand the frustration – I do,” he said. “[But] we need to ask the question, ‘How much more power do we, as citizens, want? … How much do we want to put ourselves at risk?'”

Boy, if that is not a typical NDP throw away line. No thought before it slips off the tongue. "How much more power do we, as citizens, want?" Who in h?ll were we were kidding, when we ceded our individual power to the government in the first place, and then thought that it would work out to our good?

This is a real human rights violation, and there is no way to go to Barb Hall and her pointy headed pals with it.

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