Halifax police to continue 'street checks' despite having no proof they're effective

Zane Woodford, Metro Halifax novanewsnow@tc.tc
Published on January 10, 2017

Deputy Chief Bill Moore

©Metro file

Despite having no proof that the practice is effective in stopping crime, Halifax Regional Police have no plans to stop conducting “street checks” in the municipality.

Halifax Regional Police define steet checks, referred to as carding in Ontario and elsewhere, as “when an officer either observes somebody or something going on or has an interaction or conversation with someone” and then records it in a form.

Data released by the force spanning 11 years of street checks shows black people in Halifax are three times more likely than white people to be street checked.

“It’s about three times more than you would expect based on their presence in the population,” Halifax Regional Police research coordinator  Dr. Chris Giacomantonio said Monday.

Giacomantonio presented his preliminary findings from the data to the municipality’s board of police commissioners. He’ll be continuing to work with the numbers to try to determine whether street checks are effective in lowering crime in the municipality.

Till then, nothing’s changing.

“Before we make a decision with regards to a moratorium or doing something or improving upon our processes, we need to have the facts behind it,” Chief Jean-Michel Blais told the board on Monday.

Deputy chief Bill Moore told reporters after the meeting that police have only anecdotal evidence that street checks have been effective.

“We have had cases where street checks have provided information that has been used in future investigations,” he said.

“I’m not saying it’s not effective, we just don’t have research to prove it is.”

Giacomantonio said he doesn’t expect his work to determine whether street checks are, generally, effective or ineffective.

“I suspect that that answer wouldn’t be possible,” he said. “There’s probably something like, it’s effective under these conditions and ineffective under these conditions, or we could usefully curtail it in this area or increase it in that area and get better outcomes.”

He agrees with his bosses’ assertion that a moratorium would be the wrong approach. As does police board chair and deputy mayor Steve Craig.

Craig said the data presented by the force “validates what people tended to think,” but worries about what would be missed if street checks were stopped altogether.

“I don’t agree with a moratorium based on what we’ve seen. That’s like going to a conclusion before we know all the factors, and what’s going on,” he said.

“If we stop everything, what do we miss? What are we not proactive in preventing?”