With the news that someone in Edmonton has been slapped with a second murder charge in the disappearance of sex trade workers in that city, people are wondering if there is a serial killer on their hands. They only have to think about Robert Pickton, who's accused (and I stress merely accused) of 27 homicides of prostitutes in the Vancouver area. (There are presently 28 other cold cases and Pickton is thought to be the prime suspect also.)
I think back a few years when the numbers in the Lower Mainland were beginning to accumulate yet the city's police force didn't really seem to care. After all, the attitude was, they're hookers -- who gives a damn about the world's oldest profession? But these were women who were estranged from their families. They were sisters, daughters and in some cases mothers, who were just trying to get by and taken advantage of in the worst possible way. So why weren't the cops doing their jobs? Seems they were more interested in protecting the homes of the super-wealthy (in a city with the most expensive residential real estate in the country), which just happened to be experiencing a rash of break-ins at the time.
And of course, they couldn't be bothered to just pick up the phone and ask other police forces if they saw something weird going on or if women were missing from their cities. Selfish pride and good old police rivalries rather than making service and protection their common priority.
So when no reward was offered for information about the missing woman but a large one -- $100 000 -- was for the burglars, people naturally went nuts. What an appalling double standard. It was as if the Vancouver police had adopted the despicable decree of one particular prophet in the Bible who believed that the most virtuous woman was still worse than the most wicked man. Eventually they wizened up but in the time they wasted many lives could have been spared.
Compare that to the Edmonton approach. When something suspicious was happening there and the same pattern began emerging, the police there didn't hesitate. They got together with the Mounties and pooled their resources (in something called Project KARE), and made it one of their top priorities. They also didn't stall in saying they're looking for more than just one predator; that there are quite a few out there.
It's not hard to imagine which one makes more common sense.
Sure, prostitution is a plague. Frankly, it'd be good to see those involved in the business (mostly women) either find work or be given the support to get job retraining so they can get real jobs and put the business out of business. For the part of the patrons, they need to find other ways to gratify themselves than deal with total strangers at spas (or for the well-heeled, going to so called "massage parlours" which are really bawdy houses or bordellos). It's a two way street and the evil itself must be cleansed. All reasonable attempts should be made at family reunions as well.
But as long as such evil exists, we must prevent an even worse evil -- those who would take advantage of the most vulnerable in the worst possible way. The vast majority of us who are law abiding vowed to stop child exploitation when the Internet allowed it to spread faster than at any time in history. So why won't we do the same for adult women (and men) who are in this dead end?
Every murder case, every sexual assault, every robbery, must be treated the same by the cops -- whether the victim is someone on the A-list or the Z-list. It's by doing that that law enforcement earns trust and respect -- not because they're armed and dangerous. As long as police apply double standards, the regard people have for law enforcement will decline. No police force is ever perfect. But some are better than others in practicing the principles of equity.
It's little wonder why there was such a large list of applicants when Edmonton was looking for a new police chief some time ago -- and very few even bothered when Vancouver did the same.
UPDATE (3:23 PM EST, 2023 GMT): Fixing a bad link. Sorry folks, still getting used to Blogger.
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I couldn't agree with you more, Robert. The deaths of the desperate and destitute shouldn't be dismissed as merely a "cheap murder" simply because they made mistakes in their lives. Worse, many these type of victims are tortured -- how can anyone condone that sort of behavior?
By the way, it's great to see a former student keeping up a really interesting and informative blog. I wish you the best for the new year.
Hey Alexandra! So good to hear from you -- it's been, what, four years since we last spoke? Thanks for your comments and many happy returns.
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