Well this is it. For the second time in a row the City of Prince George, population of about 80,000 spread out over what must be 300 square miles (including the boonies, as where do you call somewhere within 15 minutes of driving from downtown? City limits?) has been tagged as Canada's most dangerous city.
As someone who has lived here, I would call anywhere within 30 miles any direction "Prince George" just for the sake of simplified classification purposes. After all, this is a place that is spread out far and wide.
The biggest most problematic area is a neighborhood known as the Veteran Lands Allotment (or: VLA)
While here I have witnessed a contingent of as many 15 R.C.M.P cruisers all lined up in a row, at the ready; preparing to "move in" on silent approach on a suspected neighborhood drug pins haven or house.
The next day we read of massive arrests, legions of guns and ammo seized some of it military grade as well as bullet-proof vests along with racks of every conceivable variety of illicit drug, drug paraphernalia and gobs of cold hard cash.
In one notorious incident, two perps were caught with a stolen truck, no insurance, numerous weapons and drugs on board, were wanted on outstanding warrants and where did the big take down take place?
A child development center parking lot for children with special needs!
But, do not underestimate the visual experience. To witness the spectacle of 10-15 police cruisers lined up on your street, engines no louder than your average hounds panting;,..is quite a sight to see.
The amount of preparation and planning into such maneuvers and to see them so well carried out without a shot fired or wild chase is impressive.
But ever since arriving here from Surrey, B.C. in 2005, I have sensed the city needs to innovate and take some pride in modernization; rather than clinging to a romantic vision of it self as a shady ville with rough sketchy outline of a city and it's inhabitants. And drop the somewhat false sense of pride in being a place for Marlboro men and place to shoot Ford and Dodge truck commercials. Without a doubt, this is the great frontier land of the SUV and 4 x 4. You will see people with dogs in back and front seats of trucks as often as a snowmobile being hauled or mud-rucked ATV.
Men sporting camouflage hats and gear and the customary day and half's worth of beard growth are common sights. This is a city largely dependent on all forms of outdoor recreation as pastime for all seasons.
The arts scene here is mild and has some outstanding invigorating moments but still needs to find more avenues and promoted venues to showcase local talent. More events and contests as well.
Much effort to attain a cosmopolitan feel to the city, in a charming contrast to the country living aspect, is strained by the mainstay casino. The casino has been the topic of much debate, with rumors and speculation over greased wheels down at City Hall. Much seems to happen "in the shadow" of the casino,and in spite of it; rather than being fueled by the positive impetus of it's own desire. This is called: "default mode".
The City needs to return to focusing on some very core things. Like sidewalks for instance. There are many places where it feels as if you are in an area where an earthquake has struck, with walking places that make you feel like you are walking on a water mattress. It needs to take some giant steps in helping people realize the dream of green living is a laudable goal and to do something about the proliferation of army sized trucks and SUV's on the road, many times with 5 empty seats and just the driver.
But all in all, this is the good news for the people of Prince George. Good news because it means with this amount of crime, the delineation between victim and perpetrator is clear and defined. The time to stop being a victim has passed. So now the time has arrived to erect the signs to warn criminals and potential ilk to let them know and give them fair warning that the mirror only has one face and the city and residents are fed up, tired and no longer willing to take its image as a crime capital lying down.
Get up Prince George!