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arrest yourself #06

Don’t know about you but there’s no telling what I’d do if I found a thief in my house. Between the sheer wrongness of it and the adrenalin rush and the fear it wouldn’t surprise me if I experienced temporary insanity. Oh yes, I’d do some damage. And think: Banshee if they hurt my dogs or my piano. Granted some sob addict desperate for some cash for their next rock doesn’t deserve to be beaten to their death by me in retaliation, but I do find the story of David Chen pretty mind blowing.

David Chen owns a shop in Toronto’s Chinatown. In May 2009, he observed Anthony Bennett stealing plants from his store on video. An hour later, the thief turned up again. This time, Chen chased Anthony down, grabbed him, tied him up and locked him inside a van until the police arrived. This is known as a citizens arrest.

The police came. In addition to arresting the thief, Chen was arrested on the grounds of forcible confinement and assault. Apparently if he’d arrested the thief right after the act of thievery it would have been ok, but that 60 minute delay makes all the difference under current law. The thief, by the way, pled guilty and served 30 days in jail. Chen’s case starts on Wednesday.

As you can imagine, folks are in an uproar. It seems asinine doesn’t it? Olivia Chow thinks so, and is introducing a private members bill to allow a broader time frame for making citizens arrests. I hope she succeeds. But I also hope we never get to the point in Canada where it’s ok to engage in this practice, apparently common in NYC’s Chinatown.

About the Author


Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com

8 Comments

  1. Interesting question (what I’d do if I witnessed somebody stealing from me). It would greatly depend on what was being stolen and by whom.

    I think this is a very different question from David Chen’s situation, though. Because we’re talking about his shop. A shop is a place of business. Theft from stores are a fact of life. Stores have to budget for loss (which as I understand it includes anything that the store buys which is not subsequently sold, i.e. it covers theft, stuff the clerk forgets to charge for, and goods that have to be thrown out because they’re damaged or expired).

    I don’t know the Canadian laws as well as I maybe should, but I sure hope that store owners do NOT have the right to kidnap people, tie them up and lock them up in a van, whatever grudge they may have against those people.
    Jan Karlsbjerg´s last [type] ..Did I mention that I’m on Facebook

    [Reply]

    nancyzimmerman Reply:

    Increasingly I’m shifting my opinion. My first response was outrage. I still am entirely sympathetic towards David Chen and it does seem just nuts that *he* is on trial. Nevertheless, vigilanteism scares me too, and increasing powers of Joe and Joette Canadian to assail, restrain and confine other individuals kinda creeps me out. And beyond that, in this particular instance – the thief is not a sympathetic character. He reminds me of the folks in my old dtes hood. Clearly he either deliberately lies or else his mind is so muddled up (presumably after years of drugs) and he obviously lives way outside the norms of society. But — as we treat the least of our society = the mark of our civility, non?

    [Reply]

    Oct 05, 2010
  2. Eunice

    The charge of kidnapping — along with the concealed weapon charge — was dropped. He didn’t ‘kidnap’ the thief anywhere. The thief ran away from them. If a security guard at a mall saw you shoplifting and chased you out of a mall, down the street and caught you & brought you back to the mall, that does not make it kidnapping.

    And to clarify on Nancy’s post — the current citizen’s arrest law requires that the offender be caught *in the act* of — not after, or “right after” — committing an indictable offense, not a summary one, using reasonable force. It’s not hard to see how difficult this would be for an ordinary citizen to execute absolutely correctly. And if executed correctly, how many successful citizen’s arrests there would be. (How many offenders wanna sit around to wait for the cops when they’re not forced to?)

    [Reply]

    Oct 06, 2010
  3. Eunice, I’m curious if your first paragraph legal Canadian fact about citizen’s arrest / kidnapping, or just your personal opinion of the morals/ethics of such a situation?
    Jan Karlsbjerg´s last [type] ..Did I mention that I’m on Facebook

    [Reply]

    Oct 06, 2010
  4. Eunice gone bye-bye?

    [Reply]

    nancyzimmerman Reply:

    Eunice never walks away from a good debate 🙂 I’m guessing she simply hasn’t popped back to the blog.

    [Reply]

    Oct 13, 2010
  5. Bok-bok-bok-bok-BOGORK!
    (Somebody’s chicken)

    [Reply]

    Oct 27, 2010

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