(This column was published in the North Shore News on Feb. 28, 2001)


Canada's crime picture not a pretty one

By Leo Knight

OCCASIONALLY I am asked to address various groups. These talks are always about one of two things; the failure of the justice system or organized crime.  


While I believe organized crime is the biggest threat to our country in the 21st century, replacing the Cold War of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the failure of our justice system is one of the biggest scams ever perpetrated on the citizens of Canada. A scam that is cultivated by the government of Canada and made possible by Stats Canada.  


For the past few years, the government has been trumpeting to anyone who'll listen that the crime rate is dropping. Politicians, be they federal, provincial or local are constantly perpetrating this myth. They use this as proof the justice system is working, despite all the evidence it is not.  


Whether you live in Blueridge, Deep Cove, Horseshoe Bay, Caulfeild or Pemberton Heights, chances are that either you or someone close to you has been the victim of crime in the past year. This was not the case 10 years ago.  


When I talk to an audience on the subject, I ask people to raise their hands when that question is posed. Invariably every hand in the room is in the air.  


Last week a study was released in Europe, examining all the major nations in the world, not looking at crime rates or crimes by numbers, but rather, looking at the victimization rate.  


The study, done by a university in the Netherlands, placed Canada in the top five in each and every category they looked at. Sometimes first or second, sometimes third or fifth, but always in the top five. By contrast, the U.S., perceived by most of us to be have a far higher crime problem, made the top five in only one category, that of victims of violent crimes.  


The study showed that nationwide, 24 per cent of all Canadians had been the victim of crime in 1999. One in four of every man, woman and child.  


That's a staggering figure.  


So, let's see. There are about 33 million Canadians as of the last census. That would translate to approximately 7,900,000 victims of crime in that year.  


OK, so what does Stats Canada say about that same year?  


According to the information on their Web site, Stats Can says there were 2,476,612 criminal offences committed in Canada in 1999.  


Well, that's a little bit of a difference. A little math seems to indicate there is a shortfall of only four and a half million.  


Now, of course we can't really do straight apples to apples comparison with this. For example, a break in at a home may yield four victims for the study and only one offence for the purposes of Stats Can. And fair enough.  


But, clearly there is a vast difference is what the results seem to be saying.  


The Stats Can figures also seem to fly in the face of what police officers on the street are saying. Their call load hasn't gone down. Nor has the calls for service to 9-1-1 emergency centres.  


There was a letter to the editor last week in the North Shore News in which the writer told of having his car broken into and the response he received from ICBC. The frustration in the writer's words was evident.  


For another example, I was in New Westminster last week for a meeting. I drove along 4th Avenue towards 8th Street. For a two-block area, on both sides of the streets, there was a non-stop river of broken glass.  


Now, I don't know if all of that resulted from one event or a series of incidents, but I was struck by just how much of it there was.  


In a 1998 study, the Attorney General's department reported that as much as 54 per cent of crimes go unreported -- that's 54 per cent!  


I'm thinking the politicians should not be so smug when they tell us that crime is going down. The Dutch study and the glass on the street seem to say otherwise.






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