Prime Time Crime  

 

(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of June 13, 2005)

Will Public Safety Ever Become A Priority?

  By John Martin

It appears tourists and locals arenít the only ones who think B.C. is beautiful.  Based on a recent research report, itís obvious that criminals love it here too.

Gerry Wickstead of the Vancouver City Police has compiled a statistical analysis of the criminal justice system that is both shocking and disturbing.

Itís called ďB.C. - The Best Place on Earth - Just ask our criminals

And if it sometimes seems that things are worse in our neck of the woods, itís because they are.  A lot worse.

B.C. has had the highest rate of property crime in the country for the past 25 years. 

We have experienced the highest rate of drug crimes for the last 20 years.

We lead the country in drug related homicides and, hereís the ugly part; we have the worst record for clearing criminal incidents with charges.  In fact fewer than 14% of known crimes result in criminal charges. 

Wickstead calculates that those responsible for 92% of reported crime in 2003 were never convicted of the offence.  With those odds in their favour, itís a miracle every crook in the country hasnít set up shop here.

Violent crime.  Homicide.  Robbery.  Break and Enter.  Weíre dead last at solving these and almost every other category of serious crime.

So whatís the province doing in the face of these numbers?  

Well, whatever it is, weíre doing it with fewer resources than anyone else.  British Columbia has the lowest level of policing in the country.  Even with the additional 315 officers promised by the government we will still be well below the average.

It doesnít add up.  Our crime rate is typically 50% higher than the national average.

Our charge rate is 50% below the average.

And we have fewer police than any other province. 

Doing more with less may be workable in the kitchen but itís probably not the best way to run a criminal justice system. 

Clearly, a staggering shortage of police has resulted in fewer charges and allowed chronic offenders to remain at large and continue terrorizing communities.  Theyíre well aware of the shortage of manpower and literally laugh at the police.

As offenders are often fond of saying, ďThereís no other place in the world where you can sell drugs across the street from the police station.Ē

Still, thereís one area where BC has no qualms about investing in the justice system.

We have the second highest cost per inmate in the country.  It costs over $180 a day to house an inmate in this province.  Thatís $50 above the national average and double what Alberta spends.

No wonder criminals love beautiful British Columbia.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at John.Martin@ucfv.ca

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