Prime Time Crime  


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight Aug. 20, 2004)

Experts Trivialize Crime Rate Again

   By John Martin

Every year around this time Canadians hear about the previous yearís crime statistics.  And once again the ďexpertsĒ are telling us how wonderful things are Ė in spite of some disturbing revelations.  Even though crime increased by 6% compared to 2002, bureaucrats and academics are tripping over themselves to put a positive spin on the numbers.


Their biggest accolades are reserved for the murder rate that dropped once again last year, and is officially at its lowest level in more than three decades.  If these professionals were inclined in any way to be responsible, theyíd also point out that this is largely a function of 911 emergency communications technology, improved dispatch systems and the present day expertise of paramedics and surgeons to save lives.


The most annoying aspect, though, of how the professionals attempt to portray a rising crime rate as good news, is the manner in which they depersonalize crime.  They seem to imply that as long as youíre not murdered or raped, donít worry Ė be happy.


They completely ignore the devastating emotional and personal pain, vulnerability and sense of violation that crime victims typically experience.  Fear, paranoia, depression and self imposed seclusion are all common responses to those who have been robbed, had their home broken into or their vehicle stolen.


Seniors, in particular, take victimization very seriously and in many cases forfeit the outings and activities that used to bring so much pleasure.  Often afraid to leave their home other than when absolutely necessary, their quality of life suffers dramatically as a consequence of victimization.


Nonetheless, the experts tell us over and over again, everythingís fine and a little jump in the crime rate isnít anything to be concerned about.  But given todayís law enforcement and prosecution practices, a little spike in the official crime rate should be of great concern.  More and more, police are accustomed to dealing with offenders in an informal capacity whereby charges arenít laid.  Prosecutors, facing serious shortfalls in funding and resources, are reluctant to prosecute many of the types of cases that formerly would always make it to trial.  In turn, the police are reluctant to waste their time investigating and processing an incident that will be rejected by the crown.


That little jump in the crime rate then, is probably considerably bigger when we take into account all the offences that donít get officially treated as such.


Stats Canada pointy heads and academics are quick to suggest that a gullible public is mislead by a sensational media and tend to think of the crime problem as much more serious than it is.  Itís probably worth noting then, that itís unlikely too many of these ďexpertsĒ live in low income, high crime neighbourhoods.  They probably have little reason to fear going for a walk at night and arenít accustomed to stepping over used needles every time they leave the house.


When we consider how much smaller the proportion of young males aged 14 to 25 is compared to thirty years ago, our crime rate should be a fraction of what it was in the 60ís and 70ís.  The fact that itís still disturbingly high is indicative of a justice system in need of serious attention. 

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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