Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Vancouver Sun Nov. 12, 2009)


Criminologists and criminals: love affair for the ages


  By John Martin


A couple months ago I was sitting at the bar in a nearby neighbourhood pub when a fellow came in and bellied up wearing an ICBC company jacket. I sarcastically asked him if he made lots of new friends wearing that in public and he quickly took it off before stuffing it at his feet. He embarrassingly explained that he makes a point never to wear that jacket outside of the office and it's triggered more than a few angry words from complete strangers. To play it safe, when anyone asks him what he does, he simply says, "insurance business."

It's an interesting commentary when a man hides his place of employment for fear of setting off an argument; or worse. But it's not altogether surprising given the public's attitude toward the much despised crown corporation.

His story struck a nerve as I often feel the need to be careful during casual introductions about mentioning what I do for a living. The occupation "criminologist" tends to elicit some rather strong images. It's commonly assumed we're a bunch of criminal-coddling, police-bashing, closet socialists who want to legalize drugs, close prisons and open brothels. None of this, in fact, is too far off the mark.

Collectively, the country's criminologists worshipped the firearm registry while expressing horror at the thought of registering convicted pedophiles and rapists. They steadfastly refuse to concede that locking up criminals for lengthy periods of time had anything whatsoever to do with the plummeting crime rate south of the border. They are the loudest opponents of mandatory minimum sentences, eliminating two- for-one pre-trial credit, and getting rid of automatic early release. They continue to be disgusted at the rate of incarceration in the United States, but were ecstatic when media baron Conrad Black was sentenced.

When I studied criminology at university, I was taught that the major reason people are in jail is because that's what we do to poor people and it's the police who are the real criminals. I learned that it's wrong to lock up murderers, but we need to throw politicians in jail. And of course, America is evil and Cuba is a worker's paradise.

Thinking back, the only time I recall victims even being mentioned was when they were portrayed as vicious lynch mobs and bloodthirsty vigilantes.

Criminologists routinely mock the media for simplistic sensationalism and then call for more night-time basketball courts to get rid of gangs.

Overall, criminologists tend to be the single most vocal apologists for the criminal class and continue to insist the streets are safer than ever despite the rising body count.

They proudly champion criminals' rights at every opportunity yet roll their eyes and sneer if anyone even mentions such a lowbrow concept as victims' rights.

There are numerous exceptions - but the stereotype of the bleeding heart, anti-police criminologist is not without considerable basis in truth. Given this unflattering public image of those who share my profession, I'm thinking that, like that guy from ICBC, it might be wise to avoid identifying myself as a criminologist in the future.

From now on I'm just going to tell anyone who asks that I'm from Revenue Canada.

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


Prime Time Crime

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