Jan Harder says something silly

(This is me being polite.)

There’s been a bit of crime happening in Half Moon Bay Park in Barrhaven. Two children were beaten up in the park last week, purportedly by a group of teenagers. I think we can all agree that if a park is conducive to consequence-free violence, it won’t be fulfilling its mandate.

In response to resident complaints, the local councillor, Jan Harder, said something rather…er…silly:

Well-lit areas create very dark areas elsewhere and actually contribute to more criminal activity.

Light, it would seem, nurtures violence.

I wish to commend the people who attempted to parse some sensibility into what Harder said, and if you squint hard enough, you might just see their point…but it requires completely ignoring the words Harder actually said.

Another in the twitter-verse was able to find the city policy that completely contradicts what Harder said:

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 1.07.29 PMThe city, you see, sees proper lighting as a safety measure, not necessarily a sufficient safety measure on its own, but a safety measure, nonetheless.

Harder and her defenders do, sort of, have a point…again if you squint really hard and ignore what Harder actually said. Criminal activity doesn’t want to be seen. It wants to recede into the shadows. It exists where there are no eyes to see. Lighting is a safety measure if and only if there are people around to see what’s going on.

This isn’t some new phenomenon or radical insight on my part, dear readers. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs wrote about the street gangs in major American cities. Half a century ago, she noted that these weren’t really street gangs. Looking at some of the most notorious examples of gang violence, it all tended to happen in parks.

The streets were safe. The streets were lit. The streets were alive. People were about, there were buses and traffic. There were shoppers and residents. There were people coming and going from bars and restaurants. This kind of violence wouldn’t occur on streets because there was just too much going on. Someone would have seen it and someone would have called the cops.

But the parks were tucked away. There was little activity at night. There weren’t houses or apartments or bars or restaurants emptying into the parks. Light is only part of the solution. Without any eyes, the light is near useless.

So this isn’t an issue of night vision or light magically creating crime. This is the very nature of areas like Barrhaven. They are quiet. There is little activity on the streets. There are no eyes naturally trained on the park.

Maybe we need lights in Half Moon Bay Park, maybe we don’t. I see a bigger issue, though. We can’t keep building these communities that are so naturally conducive to this kind of crime.

There is another lesson in this little story, and that is the poor behaviour of councillor Harder. Here is how I would define her existence as a councillor:

  • Say something silly. Ignore evidence, data, reason, logic and research. Ignore the expertise of city staff.
  • When someone points out the silliness of a particular stance, get defensive and pissy. Lash out at the residents of the city. Eschew reflection and introspection, and just get hostile.
  • Cheap out on development. Starve the city budget and don’t properly develop parks and public space.
  • Defend Suburbia uber alles. Ignore any flaws. And demand, through wishful thinking, that everything be perfect.
  • When residents seek improvements, attack them for not paying proper respect to the suburban utopia you built. (Unless you’re asking for more roads.)

You never know what councillors are doing behind the scenes, so it can be hard to judge their effectiveness and abilities, but this is a basic pattern we’ve seen from Harder. She demonstrates no respect for the city. She seeks to actively damage other neighbourhoods for the benefit of her ward. And she is nasty and mean towards residents who don’t acquiesce to every dumb statement that comes tumbling out of her mouth.

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