Tuesday, August 03, 2010


I hate to have to slightly question the well-deserved outpouring of scorn toward Stockwell Day over his intention to spend billions of dollars fighting unreported crime. But there's actually a bit more internal consistency to Day's statement than the response would suggest - even if it undoubtedly reflects the Cons' warped ideological preferences.

Here's Day:
"People simply aren't reporting the same way they used to," he responded. "I'm saying one statistic of many that concerns us is the amount of crimes that go unreported. Those numbers are alarming and it shows that we can't take a liberal view to crime."

However, he didn't provide any evidence of an increase in unreported crimes, or a description of what types of crime go unreported. He also didn't explain how unreported crime relates to the need for new prisons.

Statistics Canada's latest compilation of crime reported to police, issued last month, shows overall crime dropped by seven per cent in 2007, continuing a downward trend since the rate peaked in 1991. The report found a decline in homicides, attempted murders, sexual assaults and robberies.

Still, Day said the government will push ahead with its tough-on-crime agenda, including building new prisons. He added the government supports more mandatory sentences to take discretion away from judges, increased jail times and eliminating "discount sentencing."
So why is it that there's any argument at all about the issue of unreported crime? Well, somebody at Statistics Canada answered that question before having his or her mouth duct-taped shut:
(A Statistics Canada) analyst said the No. 1 reason given by individuals for not calling the police about a crime is that they believe it was not serious enough. Only two per cent said they feared retribution, and one per cent said they felt the police may be biased.
And the "not serious enough" statement makes all the more sense based on the numbers pointed to by Rob Nicholson in an effort to clean up Day's mess:
Statistics Canada reported in their last General Social Survey (GSS) that an estimated 34% of Canadians who are victims of crime still aren't reporting the crime to police, including:
- an estimated 88% of sexual assaults;
- an estimated 69% of household thefts, and
- and (sic) estimated 67% of personal property thefts.
Put it all together, and there's actually some theoeretical prospect that a constant focus on whipping up public fear of crime could lead both to a perception that we should drop everything to direct increased public resources toward smaller and smaller offences like personal property thefts, and to the passage of mandatory multi-year sentences that do require filling up federal prisons.

Mind you, from where we stand now - with an assumption that any government should have at least some sense of perspective in developing its criminal justice policy - that might seem like a preposterous possibility. But the next time the Cons show any limit to their willingness to push obviously-counterproductive policies in order to concentrate public attention on crime rather than other issues will be the first. And Day may simply be telling us that the Cons have every intention of reaching that point if somebody doesn't stop them first - which to me offers just as much reason for alarm as the cluelessness and dishonesty that Day and other Cons have also put on full display lately.

Update: Alison points out exactly what was counted as a crime for the purposes of the "unreported crime" numbers being trumpeted by the Cons - with that definition including unwanted e-mail messages. Never mind federal prison sentences, this calls for reinstituting the death penalty.

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