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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fight nights

Mike Fleury looks into bleedin’ season.

Posted By on Thu, May 31, 2007 at 3:25 PM

Last Friday night, a crowd of people gathered on Cunard Street near Robie to gawk at the fallout after a sidewalk beating. The attack happened at roughly 1:15am; news tipper Francis Gerard lives in a building adjacent to the alley where the fight took place.

"There's a group that all live in a house across the street, they're known as a rowdy bunch of people, they've threatened people before...this time things really got out of hand. The story goes there was them, partying, and then some other party happening up the street. Words were exchanged, and somehow the people from the second party ended up coming down the street—but that's just hearsay. That's only what I've heard."

By the time Gerrard got down to the front door of his apartment, the attackers were already walking away—"He was beaten very quickly, by the time I got down to the front door of my building, they we're already going back across the street." Gerrand had grabbed his video camera, and got the "four to six" attackers on camera. The video was handed over to the police.

The two victims of the attack were in their 20s. One was punched, while the other was hit in the head with a brick.

Unfortunately, the thing that immediately jumps to mind (aside from concern for the welfare of the victims) is the question: Does this mark the beginning of the downtown swarming season?

It's too bad—it wasn't always so. Even though the fight on Cunard doesn't qualify as a random attack, it does nothing to calm the fears of late-night pedestrians worried about Halifax's spotty reputation.

Jeff Carr, the media relations officer for the Halifax Regional Police, says that there is normally a spike in the number of downtown assaults around May. However, crediting new downtown beat cops and a greater number of officers, Carr says 2007 hasn't been quite as bad.

"Each year it seems like when the weather does get warmer, we have a few more of these incidents. But I certainly wouldn't refer to anything as a swarming season. In our quarterly statistics this year, we haven't seen a spark."

Perhaps. But it's a difficult thing to determine. According to crime statistics on the Halifax Regional Police website, the regional police (RCMP excluded) responded to 192 incidents of assault between May 1 and May 29, 2006. This year, in a similar four-week period (April 30 to May 27), there were 198 reported assaults.

Those numbers don't tell the whole story—they offer little context, and can fluctuate depending on how many crimes are determined to be serious enough to include as statistical data. But certainly, the average pedestrian is still anxious. A Facebook group called "People Against Violent Crime in Halifax" are organizing a march against violence and picnic for peace, to be held on Saturday, June 16—in part, a reaction to the Cunard incident. There will be a meeting for the march this Sunday, June 3, from 5 to 6pm in the gymnasium of the Fort Massey Church on Tobin Street.

As for the victim of the Cunard Street beating, the one hit in the face with a brick: "My understanding is that he received two stitches to his head," says Carr. "We spoke to the victim last night, and he said he wasn't sure if he wanted us to pursue the incident any further. That's all I can say."

Are things getting better or worse out there? Email: mikef@thecoast.ca

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