Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Nov.  2, 2009)


Time for an honest discussion


  By John Martin


Aside from out and out fabricating data, the most reckless and irresponsible thing a research analyst can do is cherry pick data that supports a particular position. Doing so is tantamount to intellectual dishonesty and the person engaging in this ethical breach has lost any and all credibility.

Unfortunately, this tends to be the norm with the majority of academics, politicians and others who attempt to analyze the so called "crime rate."

Time and time again the "experts" assure us that crime is going down and there's no need to engage in criminal justice reforms that would see more offenders spend longer periods of time incarcerated.

In doing so they typically ignore violent crime among youth, attempted murder and other serious offences. Even more irresponsible though, they conveniently ignore the low incidence of crime during the '60s. Instead, almost every analysis of crime patterns starts with the sky high crime rates of the '70s and attempts to demonstrate how things are improving.

But let's spend a moment back in the '60s. In 1962 the crime rate for violent offences was less than a third of what it is today. Overall, crime today is roughly 140 per cent of what it was back in '62. So what changed?

The next decade witnessed massive social upheaval and the crime rate soared. There's no one explanation but several changes can help explain the phenomenon. The divorce rate virtually doubled overnight as did the number of single parent families. Illicit drug use became a legitimate leisure activity and alcohol consumption increased. Liberal orthodoxy overhauled the criminal justice system and the priority shifted from public safety to the well being of the criminal class. Rehabilitation and re-entry of criminals to society became the sole mandate of the system.

Almost immediately, property crime and acts of violence went through the roof. Successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative continued to adopt policies that enabled criminals to offend at historically high rates.

Needless to say, the crime rate was so high it had nowhere to go but down. So, even with moderate declines over the last 40 years we have never returned to the relatively low rates of criminality that defined the early 1960s.

But this is something that you will rarely hear about. Instead, a litany of apologists conveniently start with skyrocketing rates of crime in the 1970s and proudly proclaim what a great job the system is doing. The meagre drop in crime rates overall is continuously cited to demonize reforms to sentencing practices, parole eligibility and judicial discretion.

Those who routinely talk about the so-called declining crime rate do us all a disservice when they neglect to note that we experience much, much more serious crime than was the case in 1962.

Omitting such an important piece of information is without excuse.

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


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2009