Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Aug.  9, 2012)

A Good Set of Stats

By Bob Cooper


Daniel Fontaine’s call for cuts to the Vancouver Police budget based on ‘crime decline’ (Police budgets bloom despite crime decline) reminds me of the ‘why didn’t you shoot him in the leg?’ question that reporters keep asking no matter how many times we explain it.  It’s the same justification trotted out by Christy Clark for not hiring more judges & prosecutors while dangerous criminals are having their cases stayed every week (Stop the Presses).

The best prop for a deceptive politician has always been a good set of statistics. 

Though I’m a tad right of center, no fan of Vision Vancouver, and we’ve all seen examples of waste and abuse in government, I am troubled by the Right’s broad attack on the public service in general and law enforcement budgets in particular.  It plays well in rough economic times but purposely ignores a couple of major but very simple factors.

First of all, crime isn’t declining.  Certainly not ‘plunging’ like Mr. Fontaine would have you believe.  What has been declining for years is the level of service from most police departments and people are simply not bothering to report crimes as a result because they don’t see a point to it.  At one time the Vancouver Police used to attend most motor vehicle accidents, thefts from auto, and other calls that seem minor until they happen to you.  In order to cope with budget cuts imposed by city politicians of both stripes, we simply stopped doing things.

Even if you accept the ‘crime decline’ rationale, any benefits are far outstripped by the effects of the Charter of Rights & Freedoms which was proclaimed in 1982 and has been hobbling law enforcement ever since.  For example, in the 1970s one Constable could process an Impaired Driver from roadside stop to jail in about 30 minutes.  Now, the same call will tie up a two man car for at least 3 or 4 hours and that’s if there is no accident involved.  We used to be able to clear a common domestic murder in 8 hours with a file about 1/2” thick.  Now, the same case takes weeks with a banker’s box full of 3” legal-size binders.  The administrative burden the Charter imposes on everything the police do has been increased by at least ten-fold and despite budget cuts certain things simply have to be done, someone has to do all that work, and the VPD simply doesn’t have enough cops and hasn’t had for years.

Mr. Fontaine’s reference to ‘the peace dividend’ was particularly weak.  While the Russian empire isn’t quite what it was, they very much remain a threat and one enemy is always replaced with another.  Perhaps someone should remind him of the 158 soldiers we lost in Afghanistan.  That the sole ally quoted in Mr. Fontaine’s column is an anti-cop politician who worships Che Guevara speaks volumes.  



Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.



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Contributing 2012