Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tackling Violent Crime

In its 2+ years in power, the minority government of Stephen Harper has done a lot to change Canada's approach to crime, and they're planning a lot more. (Here is their own description of their efforts.)

Harper's approach is to follow the American example and "get tough on crime": impose longer sentences and legislate more mandatory sentences in order to incarcerate more criminals. In their PR mailings, the Harper government particularly targets youth as a group it wants to lock up in greater numbers.

As I have argued before, this is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing.

Here are some highlights from an article in today's New York Times (Inmate Count in US Dwarfs Other Nations):

- The US has 5% of the world's population but 25% of its prisoners.
- In the US, 751 people per 100,000 are incarcerated. (In Canada, there are 108 per 100,000.) If you count adults, the US incarcerates 1 in 100.
- One of the reasons for this is that judges are elected, and in the last 40 years crime has become very politicized.
- The US incarceration rate was stable from 1925-1975, but then it shot up dramatically.
- The murder rate in the US is four times higher than it is in European countries.
- The US is the only advanced country that incarcerates people for minor property crimes like passing bad cheques.
- In 1980, there were 40,000 people in US jails for drug crimes. Today there are 500,000.
- While many believe that American legal penalties have reduced crime in the US, studies have found that over the last 40 years, crime trends have been the same in Canada and the US, but Canada has not increased penalties. This suggests that it is not increased incarceration that is lowering US crime, but shifting demographics.
- A legal expert at Yale concludes, "Far from serving as a model for the world, [incarceration policy in] contemporary America is viewed with horror."



Johnathon said...

Your stats are right when it comes to murder, however Canada leads the USA in every other aspect of crime per capita.

Car thefts per capita.

1.Canada 4.88547 per 1,000 people
2.USA 3.8795 per 1,000 people

Burglaries per capita.

1. Canada 8.94425 per 1,000 people
2. USA 7.09996 per 1,000 people

Frauds per capita.

1.Canada 2.61146 per 1,000 people
2.USA 1.25721 per 1,000 people

I could go on and on and on but I'll leave you the think to the website to prove that maybe the USA has more crime in certai areas, but Canada has more crinme on other areas.

I'd bet you didn't know these statistics.

Go through the list and you will see that Canada has much higher crime rates in certain areas than the USA does.

Yappa said...

Hi Jonathon,

Great site! Thanks very much.

But I see somewhat different stats than you report. From the same site (all per 1,000 population):

Total crimes
US - 80.0645
Canada - 75.4921

US - 1.38527
Canada - 0.823411

US - 7.56923
Canada - 7.11834

US - .042802
Canada - .0149063

Johnathon said...

My point is that Canada has higher crime rates in certain areas while the USA has lower rates.

Did you know that 1 in 9 blacks are in jail right now, and that 1 in 3 blacks are either in prison, on parole, or on probation.

Clearly, if Canada had cities like Detroit, Philadephia or Los Angeles, Canada's crime rate would skyrocket.

Canada has only 33 million people while the USA has 335 million.

Canada does not have the ghettos that the USA has and therefore not the same social issues as Canada.

Seeing that, trying to compare Harper's crime agenda to the USA is a bit rich.

It's impossible to compare the two countries when they're 2 different situations.

Ask anyone going to Florida for the winter and you'll here that the people feel safe as possible.

The crime rates you're talking about are black on black crime as well as hispanic on hispanic crime.

If you got rid of those two problems the USA would be very close to Canada in overall crime statistics.


Yappa said...

Hi Jonathon,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Another way I could state my case is: Even with monumentally high incarceration rates, the US has a terrible record on crime.

The plight of minorities is partly caused by the US incarceration policy, so that problem is somewhat circular. When you put someone in jail it hurts their kids, their spouse, their parents, and their community.

If a teenager is caught smoking dope and gets sent off to prison for it, his chances in life are hugely curtailed. He probably won't be able to ever get a decent job. His chances of becoming a career criminal are much higher.

Canadian policies that divert youth from jail sentences and that target the causes of crime are much, much more effective, more humane and more cost effective.

Iceage said...

What is not taken into consideration when all stats are taken is the age of the population.From 1962 to 1995 their was a higher younger population in Canada. Most violent crimes are comitted by younger people so youth crimes percapita are actualy on the rise in Canada, from ages 13 to 30 years of age. It only looks smaller with a smaller youth population because of this over looked data. Their are many more ethnic gangs in Canada to day, mostly due to a increase of imigration that contributes to the smugling of hand guns cocain and heroin into Canada. With conections to third world nations it is easy for them to do this. It is very easy for people from war torn nations to get into Canada because of weak emigration laws. The past twenty years many criminals from these areas have entered Canada. The bigest problem is the goverments of Canada have changed the laws to recatagorize what is consider a violent crime making stats obscure.