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POLICE ON LIFE SUPPORT – Revolving Doors, Concurrent Sentences Killing Law Enforcement

Caught in the Act

Ros Melnyk (20) is a poster boy for two major defects in Canadian criminal justice.

The revolving doors of justice and concurrent sentences.

Let me explain….

On March 19, 2014, Melnyk was nabbed by a caretaker and his son after he was observed acting in a suspicious manner in an apartment block in the 300 block of Poplar Avenue.  The dynamic duo managed to overcome Melnyk’s resistance and held him for Police.

After taking custody of Melnyk, Police conducted an investigation that led to him being identified as a highly skilled, prolific serial residential break & enter offender.  Police indicate Melnyk’s method of entry was somewhat unusual in that he used lock picks and listening devices, normally used to crack safes, to cheat door locks.  In all, Melnyk is believed to be responsible for causing property damage and stealing goods to a value of $80,000.00.

The investigation resulted in the following charges being laid;

  • Break, Enter & Theft x 31
  • Break & Enter with Intent x 3
  • Possess B&E instruments
  • Assault
  • Several weapons related offences

Anyone with experience in criminal justice should recognize that serial offenders like Melnyk make significant contributions to the overall crime statistics experienced in crime ridden Cities like Winnipeg.  Melnyk is part of the dedicated elite 5% of criminals who generate up to 90% of the crime that afflicts us.

The East District Police Officers who investigated Melnyk are acutely aware of this reality and lodged him in the Provincial Remand Center.  The arrest of serial offenders like Melnyk are somewhat like “interventions,” of sorts as these offenders rarely have the motivation to stop their criminal conduct unit they’re forced to do so.

Enter the Crown Prosecutor.

The Prosecutor in this case appears to have agreed to Melnyk’s release, but only if he can find someone foolish enough to post a $10,000 surety to spring him.  If released, he’ll have to abide by a 9 pm to 6 am curfew, an interesting condition given that most residential break & enters occur during day time hours.

While I don’t often find fault with Crown Prosecutor’s I have to admit the decision to consent to Melnyk’s bail should be a concern to all of us.

The Revolving Doors of Justice;

The revolving doors of justice are a “real thing” and present a significant issue for Law Enforcement.  Once released, Melnyk becomes the sole burden and responsibility of the Police Service.  Will the Police have the time to drop by his house every night to make sure he’s abiding by his curfew?  Do the Police need the extra work?  Will the Police be able to catch him if, and more likely, when starts breaking into people’s apartments again?

Let’s not forget, Melnyk committed thirty-four (34) Break & Enters offences and successfully avoided the detection of Law Enforcement.  His luck only ran out when a sharp-eyed gutsy citizen turned the tables on him.

I suspect the fact Melnyk has no criminal record played into the Crown’s decision to grant him bail.

Should that really matter?

Record or not, Melnyk made the choice to become an elite, dedicated, serial criminal offender.  His crimes have affected dozens of law-abiding citizens who suffered the loss of property, property damage and the emotional trauma of having the sanctity of their homes violated.   The choice should have come with harsh consequences and negated any charitable consideration from the Crown.

I have to ask, where did the need to protect the public enter into the equation?

Therein lies the rub…

Canadian justice has now made Ros Melnyk an offender with almost nothing to lose.

The reality is, it matters not if Melnyk decides to add another five (5), ten (10) or twenty (20) more Break & Enters to his resume.  Cases like his are almost always resolved by way of plea bargain. The addition of twenty (20) or more charges will have little or no consequences for him.  That happens to be the primary problem Police associate with the catch and release program.  The charges pile up only to be dealt away by the dozen.  I’ve seen it hundreds of times.

Crown Prosecutors have to be alert to these concerns and should be ready to fight to keep offenders like Melnyk behind bars.

That brings me to the next issue.

Concurrent Sentences;

Ros Melnyk will surely be the benefactor of concurrent sentences and stays of proceedings once the plea bargain dust settles on the court room floor.

A concurrent sentence is a sentence that runs at the same time, or concurrently, with another sentence.

Example;

If Melnyk pleads guilty to fifteen (15) counts of Break & Enter and receives a sentence of twelve (12) months for each offence, he would only have to serve a period of twelve (12) months in custody.  The fact he was sentenced to a total of fifteen (15) years in prison means nothing when a sentence runs concurrently.

Concurrent sentences are nothing more than judicial smoke screens that have little meaning or effect in the real world.  Their only redeeming quality is the fact they register as convictions and “may” impact future sentences received by an offender.

Sadly, there is no real “truth” in sentencing in Canada.

The truth is, concurrent sentences, 2 -1 discounts, parole, statutory release, escorted and unescorted temporary absences are all forms of soft justice discounts that undermine real “truth” in sentencing.

At some point we’re going to have to try to stop the bleeding.

RELATED LINKS:

Winnipeg Free Press – James Turner “Men Had a Hunch Something Was Up”

28 Comments

  1. John,

    Call me black and white or narrow-minded if you like but my experience on the front lines of crime fighting supports my position on the case you have weighed in on.

    I’m all for second chances.

    What you fail to consider is public safety and the need for interventions for serial offenders.

    What you likely don’t realize is that offenders who commit dozens of property offences like this are often in the grips of debilitating addictions that fuel the crime. Many of these offenders express relief once they’re apprehended. They are trapped in a cycle of drug abuse that precludes them from a normal healthy existence….eat, sleep, meaningful family relationships.

    Arresting someone like this and immediately releasing them back into society is irresponsible and doesn’t nothing to interrupt the cycle of criminality.

    A short shot in custody forces the offender to detoxify and potentially seek treatment for their substance abuse.

    I agree with you regarding the punishment system save for violent and habitual offenders who, through their demonstrated past behaviours, have shown us they are committed to a life of crime and have no interest in rehabilitation.

    In those cases incarceration is the only option.

    In those cases our concern must shift to public safety.

    Thank you for your comments.

  2. What bothers me the most about your posts James are your blatant accusations of more liberally minded people. Blaming people who don’t support “punishment system” just shows how narrowly minded you are.

    First of all the accused is first time offender and I believe in this country we do have such a thing as a second chance, what good would it do to hold accused people in custody till the court hearing? While he is out he has a chance to show the society that he is willing to change his way, by finding employment, volunteering etc.

    Second, the punishment system is obsolete, even United States are changing their tough stance on crime unless its very serious offenses such as murder, drug trafficking and related crimes. Now the system in many states tries to hand out shorter sentences and provide inmates with help they need (social skills developing, resume building, employment, mental health). Not only is it cheaper (compared to bloated $70,000 per inmate annually we pay here in Canada), it’s far more effective and is proven by countless studies.

    Why do you think we should model our system on this derelict “tough on crime” stance that costs us taxpayers millions and get us as a society nowhere? What good is it to hand out a 20 year sentence to someone who will just build up their anger and then release it back into society? Why can’t we check what actually works and adapt a system like they have in Scandinavian countries? Their system appears to be working judging by the results:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/09/why-scandinavian-prisons-are-superior/279949/

    I am not taking the side of the criminals by any means, rehabilitation process must be in place to teach them what they did was wrong and why people in the society don’t accept such a behavior. But our system focuses solely on punishment with very few programs in place to actually guide and integrate inmates back into society. That’s why our re-incarceration rates are so high and prison system is on verge of bankruptcy. Not to mention mental stain on prison guards and staff…

    Regards ~ John

  3. I feel your pain and sense of frustration.

    Unfortunately, police have a very low solvency rate when it comes to property crime. As a result, property stolen during these crimes is rarely recovered.

    The offenders are normally drug addicted habitual criminal who could care less about the people they hurt by their crimes.

    Its sad, but you are correct.

    There is no excuse for breaking into people’s homes.

    Thank you for sharing your story…

  4. I am one of his victims. I came home from work to find my apartment door unlocked. I believe he was watching me because I was only gone a few hours. He stole all my jewelry, my camera, and the ink from my printer. The worst part was that most of the pieces he stole were costume jewelry that wasn’t valuable to anyone else, but I had received it from my Grandma’s estate only a few weeks before, and it meant the world to me. I was devastated. However, having lost both my Grandmother and Uncle in the previous month, I knew that there were far worse things that could happen.

    People need to learn to take responsibility for their actions. There are jobs out there. They may not be fun or glamorous, but a job is a job. And not being able to find a job is no excuse for breaking into people’s homes.

  5. This guy broke into my apartment while I was living in Winnipeg but didn’t take anything, came back from college one summer day to find my door unlocked, and I always double check when i exit. My laptop from Robertson college/credit cards/TV/my parents wedding bands and few other things you expect to be taken where all there.
    So creepy knowing someone can come and go through your place uninvited.

  6. I live an hr. from Vancouver & some-day we will check on Main & Hastings.

  7. Taking a road trip this summer to visit my daughter.

    Might just do that….thanks for reading!

  8. People who haven’t experienced the emotional trauma that comes with a residential B&E are often the first ones to minimize the seriousness of the crime. Thanks for making it a bit more personal!

  9. blue on the left coast

    Thank you so much for giving a voice to victims and shedding light on the joke called “concurrent sentencing”. Before I got on the job, I had no idea how soft the legal system was on criminals. In fact, I quickly had to stop calling it the “Criminal Justice System” (as we were so dutifully trained in high school and university) and simply refer to it now as “the legal system”.

    If you are ever in Vancouver, please be sure to drop by 222 Main St., and sit in some sentencing hearings for some real comedy.

  10. My sister had her place broken into by this guy. I strongly believe he needs to serve time for what he’s done! She is a single mom of a 1 year old. She took her little boy for a 30 min walk and came home to her door unlocked. She thought maybe she forgot to lock it and went inside to find that someone has been inside and went thought it. He went into the baby’s room and stole a baby bottle piggy bank that was on his dresser, some video games and she had a hand gun locked in a case in her closet that he took so this guy stole from a baby and had a Hand gun. He’s guilty! and this is the guy! they found the gun, in his closet of his bedroom in his parents house. It’s sad that my sister had to go through this and the sleepless nights she went through after. Also the costly move she decided to make cause of this.

  11. I know that tails are not the solution. Maybe if the People would put in alarm systems, maybe these break in idiots might be scared off. We have a great alarm & if we came home & the person was in the house, it would be me against the intruder. I like others, don’t like the courts. A lot of common sense may Help the Judges to think more clearly.

  12. While I agree that poverty plays a significant role in the bottom line, I’m confused by the liberty you took with Tom’s suggestion.

    Residential Break & Enters is hardly petty crime comparable to shoplifting, in fact, it happens to be one of the most serious crimes in the Criminal Code of Canada.

    Conducting surveillance on Melnyk is an excellent idea and would probably result in his re-arrest and loss of freedom to continue victimizing Winnipeg home owners. Not sure how that compares to Nazi Germany.

    I have to commend you for still having a sympathetic heart after being victimized as much as you have.

    Thank you for commenting.

  13. Great idea Tom, we should bug houses of petty criminals, shoplifters and have cops spying on them wasting time, writing off more taxpayers money. Just like they did back in Nazi Germany. Or we might cut salaries of judges, cops who make 6 digits a year and invest that money in rehab, work and job training for people, bringing back industries that where moved to China and 3rd world. We are sitting at 20% youth unemployment, 40% of people aged 18-25 in Canada live paycheck to paycheck barely making enough for rent and food to survive on.

    I am not here to defend the accused, what he did was wrong and I can imagine what victims of these break ins went through as my house was broken into 3 times since I moved to Winnipeg in 1999.

    We should concentrate on poverty and drugs which create crime, just like they do in Scandinavian countries thus having lowest crime % in the world. Jail and justice system in Canada are broken because it follows American model too much, where petty thieves turn into rapists, murderers and thugs after their time in jail.

  14. Maybe put a tail on him for awhile & try to catch him in the act.

  15. I’m not a big believer in jails or the concept of rehabilitation but until we have an alternative we have to have some way of protecting society against the serial offenders who prey on the citizenry….

    As a serial offender Melnyk represents one of the biggest threats to the safety and security of your home.

    There has to be some way to stop them.

    Thank you for commenting.

  16. I don’t see a reason for contesting against bail release, after all its the first time he was ever arrested. We do need a reform of our justice system, but is tougher, longer sentences really the answer? If you look at French or American justice system which are much more stricter than ours, they don’t truly solve the problems and the causes of these crimes. Prisoners sit in their cell, eat, sleep and watch TV the entire time as work spots in the kitchen are limited, most prisons lost their other trades employment sections in late 1990s. It’s basically a hotel room.

  17. Michael…

    Your opinion typifies the current state of affairs in Canadian Justice.

    Victims receive very little consideration and are lost in an offender driven justice system.

    What you call a “one sided article” confronts two real issues that we face in criminal justice, the revolving doors and meaningless concurrent sentences.

    What you call “compiling dirt on others” is not some libellous scandal I dreamed up, these are serious serial property offences committed by an intelligent offender who has victimized dozens of people with his crimes. I don’t apologize for representing the victim side of the equation.

    The way I see it, Mr Melnyk would be best served by experiencing some consequences for his criminal behaviour, tired excuses and sympathy for tough circumstances as a child and teen just don’t cut it. I endured similar circumstances in my youth and refuse to accept those circumstances as justification for making a choice to embark on a life of crime.

    When Melnyk was arrested he was in desperate need of a criminal intervention but ended up with bail instead.

    I’ve personally investigated dozens of prolific serial property offenders like Melnyk and have yet to see one of them fall victim to a wrongful conviction. More likely than not, Melnyk will reoffend, get rearrested and make a plea bargain to deal his outrageous number of charges.

    I agree there is a chance to rehabilitate this young man and locking him up for a good part of his 20’s is not necessarily the answer.

    Of course, Melnyk holds the key to unlock the door to a crime free life and productive future.

    He’s not likely to use that key if he never experiences any meaningful consequences for his criminal conduct.

    I’m interested to see how this plays out….

    Thank you for commenting.

  18. Sounds like a familiar story….

    Money, greed, power and influence…

    Winnipeg City Hall ?

  19. James before writing such a one sided article you have to consider what type of a person Melnyk is, and that he did not have an opportunity to reveal his part of the story and properly defend himself yet.

    I’ve been his science teacher 4 years ago, in 10 years I’ve been teaching I have very rarely seen the level of intelligence and brightness Melnyk possessed, however there where clear issues with his social life, he was constantly teased, disrespected by his peers in front of the classroom and not given a chance to integrate with Canadian society. I say this because I’ve seen it happen first hand and over the span of time kid gave up on himself trying to fit in.

    It’s easy to sit on internet and compile dirt on others while only acknowledging the charges and not the events that led up to those crimes. Who knows what happened in his life that made him do it, he is only 20 years old, I believe there is still a chance to rehabilitate him and locking him up for good part of his 20s will do nothing but completely eliminate this chance and turn him into career criminal.

  20. Hi James, My opinion, I think the justice system boils down to money & greed & who you know, Some Judges on the bench deal with their own personal feelings & that can interfere with their decisions. Tom.

  21. Nothing wrong with dreaming…..

  22. There certainly isn’t a significant deterrence factor with concurrent sentences. Perhaps some kind of volume discount would be a more effective sentencing approach. Or staggered start times: start a new one every three months, with a maximum of four convictions for the same offence being served simultaneously, as an example, would result in a real-time term of 4 1/2 years. Four month intervals-5 yrs 8 months. Six month intervals-8 yrs. Probation eligibility based on only the last sequential sentence.

    In my dreams.

  23. Excellent point….

    Thanks for commenting…

  24. I have never felt that break and enters should be considered non violent offenses. They often carry their own weapons or grab a knife from the kitchen and carry around with them in case the homeowner or family is present or comes home.

    If someone can enter your home, they are taking a risk that you will defend it and yourself, and it will become violent. Like the getaway driver whose partner assaults or kills his victim in a robbery, they should expect the real possibility of violence in their actions. To me b&E should be considered a violent offense due to the potential.

  25. You might not say that if your residence was one of the thirty (30) plus homes that were broken into and ransacked by this guy.

    What does that tell us about our justice system when property offences are of trite concern and we aren’t even willing to attempt to keep the worst offenders in jail.

    It tells me that apathy is a powerful state of mind in Canadian justice.

  26. There was no point contesting bail for this particular guy. No record, these were non-violent offences, willing to put up surety and has a stable address.

    I commend the Crown for not wasting court time arguing a bail they’d never win. If he breaches and then gets another shot at release, then sure, that’s worth getting upset about [circumstances depending]. But not for a first crack at bail.

  27. Agreed, however, all things considered, is it reasonable to grant a guy bail under these circumstances?

    I suspect we have much different views on that!

    Thank you for commenting.

  28. Let’s also remember that these are allegations. Mr. Melnyk is presumed innocent and he has the right to reasonable bail.

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