The next time you hear a politician claiming that the reason we need to invest billions of dollars into building more prisons and warehousing more people within them, please bear in mind a recent report from Statistics Canada which shows that crime rates continued their long-term downward trend in 2010.
Crime rates have been falling steadily for the past 20 years. The majority of the decline last year was in property crimes like break-ins and car theft. Decreases were also reported in many offences such as homicide and serious assault. The index measuring the severity of crime also fell by 6% to its lowest point since 1998 when the index was first available.
Our national rate of homicide is 1.62 per 100,000. While it’s very hard to make international comparisons about homicide due to variances in reporting, categorizing, etc. as a rough point of comparison I would like to point out that homicide rates, according to Wikipedia, in some other countries of the world: Honduras, 77; El Salvador, 70; Colombia, 32; Brazil, 25; Mexico, 18; America, 5.
Some types of crime did increase last year, such as child pornography, sexual assault, criminal harassment and drug offences (about half of which were for pot possession). However, most crimes are non-violent (4 out of 5 offences). And almost 2/3 non-violent offences are minor (theft under $5,000, mischief and break-ins).
Also contrary to the fear rhetoric of politicians, Toronto has one of the lowest crime severity index reports of Canada’s cities (the lowest being Guelph, followed by Quebec, Toronto and Ottawa). And despite the image often portrayed of violent youth gangs holding our cities hostage, youth crime rates have declined by 7%. And yet the federal government is seeking to substantially harden the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Despite this steady decline in crime rates, the Canadian prison population is expected to grow by 4,500 inmates by 2014 – not because crime rates are going to suddenly reverse their trend, but because the Conservatives are continually changing legislation so as to send more people to a jail for longer periods. Since 2006-07 when the Tories came to power, spending on Corrections has increased by 80%.
Have they imprisoned logic too?