Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times Nov  1, 2011)


Progress Ė donít you love it?


 By John Martin


It took one year and 45 days to build the Empire State Building back in the early 1930s. That's about half as long as it takes to put in a roundabout these days.

So I guess it should come as no surprise that investigators expect it to take two years to finish laying charges in the Stanley Cup riot. After all, this isn't your typical international money laundering operation spanning half a dozen countries and numerous financial institutions. We're talking broken windows and stolen blue jeans.

This is serious stuff.

There was a Vancouver riot back in 1971; the Gastown Riot. Seventy-nine people were arrested and 38 of them were charged in a matter of days. Heads would have rolled if someone had dared suggest it was going to take two years to wrap up the investigation.

But of course, these are different times. We now have surveillance cameras and facial recognition technology.

Knowledge acquisition has never been easier. Entire libraries are available online. Documents, research reports, essays and complete manuscripts can be downloaded in seconds. Yet people are graduating from high school with poorer written communication skills than at anytime since education became compulsory.

When my mother passed away a while back and I was dealing with her property I disposed of the same oven that was used in the house I grew up in. It was in perfect working order and over 40 years old. That was seven years ago. I've had to replace my own stove twice since then.

But of course, these are different times. We now have computers in our stoves.

Opponents of the federal government's tough on crime legislation argue there's no need to reform the system because crime is down 17 per cent from a decade ago. That's probably correct. It's also up 130 per cent from where it was in 1962. This is not unlike the over-the-hill, punch-drunk prizefighter who is convinced he's on the comeback trail because he only got knocked down six times in his last fight instead of the usual seven or eight.

Not that long ago, a young man couldn't wait to finish school and start a career so he could move into his own place and tackle the world. Leaving the nest was a prerequisite to growing up and becoming independent. It's now perfectly normal for 30-year-olds to live in their mom's basement and put off adulthood indefinitely.

Across the country, and indeed around the globe, we're seeing spinoffs of the Occupy Wall Street protests. It used to be people who were not satisfied with their economic situation in life worked harder, got another job or upgraded their skills and education to make themselves more competitive. Now they sit in a park and blame the international financial community and global economic structure for their shortcomings and demand someone give them money.

But of course, these are different times. We now realize we're all victims of an oppressive state who need take no responsibility for our circumstances.

I don't know that we were any smarter 40 or 50 years ago. I somehow doubt it. But we sure did a better job of taking care of ourselves and getting things done.

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


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2011