Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Crime is down, but rhetoric continues to escalate

Statistics Canada reports today that crime is down across the country, with the exception of those pesky Prince Edward Islanders, where the Anne of Green Gables knockoff merchandise black market continues to expand. Potato theft is also rampant.

But really, declining crime rates aren’t really surprising to most people. Well, except perhaps to Stephen Harper. Those who have been paying attention, though, know that crime has been declining steadily for some time, well pre-dating the current government.

The statistics prevent a communications challenge for the Conservative. Or, rather, they would if the Conservatives were concerned about consistent messaging that actually, you know, makes sense and stuff.

The Conservatives could claim victory and take credit for the numbers, except:

a) Harper has already made his statistics, shmatistics position clear.

b) They consistently blame the Liberals for stalling and not passing their “tough on crime” legislation. Particularly those pesky Senators.

Never mind the fact we offered to fast-track the bulk of it, they always get it to the Senate late in session and expect it to be rubber-stamped, and they’ve killed their own bills many times, like when they called an early election (in violation of their own election law, ironically) or when they prorogued parliament in December to avoid defeat at the hands of the Rebel Alliance.
So if we’re stalling their legislation, how can it be reducing crime?

c) The decline in crime rates predates this government. That could more likely mean the previous Liberal “soft on crime” policies were actually working, that demographic or other factors could be responsible, or some combination of the two.

I’ll be interested to see how the Cons square the circle here. I’m guessing they stick to the fingers in year, stats are for losers, I listen to my gut approach.

To the opposition though, and particularly my Liberals, my plea is this: the facts are on our side.

So don’t take the path of least resistance on CPC crime legislation. Lets fight fictional gut rhetoric with actual facts.

If it’s good legislation, pass it. If it needs changes, move for amendments. Of course tough on crime polls well. But tough vs. soft is a false argument that we should reject. We’ve always advocated a balanced approach to crime: get tough on criminals AND address root causes that lead to crime. And we’ve gotten away from that lately, and that’s wrong.

We should be saying sure, get tough on crime, criminals suck (although mandatory minimums are stupid) but getting tough on crime is only half the answer. The Conservative approach is half-assed, and getting tough on crime along won’t achieve the desired impact. You need to address poverty, you need to invest in diversion programs, and you need to do harm reduction.

And you need to support programs like Insite, which won over a skeptical local community and has led to sharp reductions in property crime, for example, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

That’s the case we should be making. As I said, we’ve got the facts on our side, that’s been reaffirmed again today.

So let’s start suiting-up for this one, please.

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The Rat said...

"Police reported crime" is down. It's a small qualifier that should say a lot. Further, that reduction is from a peak in the 80s and is still significantly higher than the 50's, a time when we were much tougher on crime and didn't do sissy stuff like harm reduction and diversion. Back then the solution to poverty was hard work. So, yeah, statistics-schmatistics. They're meaningless out of the historical context and when qualified by things like "police reported".

Gayle said...

All crime stats are police reported, which means we are comparing the number of police reported crimes this year to the number of police reported crimes last year, and the year before that, and so on.

In addition, the crime rate peaked in 1992, and has been decreasing ever since.

Fortunately for people in the '50's, things like harm reduction and diversion were not so necessary as they are today.

Anonymous said...

You talk to any police officer and they will tell you that the revolving door syndrome is a joke. As soon as they catch criminals (especially young offenders) they're back on the street. And who came up with:

1. The Youth Justice Act?
2. Conditional Sentences?
3. Concurrent Sentences?
4. Faint Hope Clause?

The Liberals.

So the Liberals "hug a thug" mentality might feel warm and fuzzy to you but to the real heroes on the street think it sucks.

Pearce said...

Gayle - Another source of crime statistics are victimization surveys. It is one attempt to access underreported crime like assaults and simple theft. In any case, the real crime rate is always a dark figure, and any statistic is only a best guess. Lies, damn lies, etc. etc.

Gayle said...

Pearce - it may be a guess, but my point is that the measurement standard is the same year after year, and by that measurement crime has gone down.

PK - Do you think that maybe the police might have a bit of their own bias? As in - you have to give US more resources because of the terrible crime? Numbers are numbers; police opinions (none of which you actually quoted, and I suggest it is beyond your knowledge to honestly assert that "any" police officer would agree with what you said), are still opinions.

Not to mention there are more people "on the street" than the police. There are those front line social workers and charities who provide aid to people on those streets to which you refer.

In Edmonton there have been many proactive initiatives that have involved the police force that have resulted in noticeable reductions in crime - without the need to engage tough on crime policies.

Youth crime has been decreasing - particularly since the YCJA came into force. This legislation makes it harder to jail kids for minor crimes, and easier to jail them for crimes of violence. It increases the available sentences and makes it easier to impose an adult sentence for the more serious crimes.

Maybe you should educate yourself a bit more.

Jon Pertwee said...

Hey Prairie Kid, those "real heroes of the street" are nothing more than armed thugs in my part of Canada. Why do 55% of RCMP deaths in custody happen in BC?

Armed thugs...

The Rat said...

"Fortunately for people in the '50's, things like harm reduction and diversion were not so necessary as they are today."

And why was that, Gayle?