The Crime Stats Debate – Reworking the Numbers
May 13, 2011 – Scott Newark’s analysis of the StatsCan 2009 police-reported crime statistics has sparked much debate since its release. More importantly, it is shedding some light on the analysis of crime data in hopes to create more accurate and relevant information for Canadians. Over the past week, Newark presented his findings at the Canadian Police Association Conference and he met with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. The expected result of these meetings will be to increase collaboration between police organizations and develop the required reforms based on Newark’s report published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
The following article published in the Winnipeg Sun by Mike Sutherland, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, describes some of the constructive arguments reported by Newark.
May 10, 2011
By Mike Sutherland
Prior to the major distraction of our recent federal election, a debate had commenced over the validity of crime statistics.
The issue was sparked by Scott Newark, a former prosecutor and crime victim advocate, and his assessment of the crime data collected, processed and reported on by Statistics Canada. I had the opportunity to hear Scott this week in Ottawa. Although some academics take issue with his challenge to the widely accepted premise that crime rates are declining, I don’t think many could argue with some of the constructive arguments he introduces. They certainly make a lot of sense to me and the many other police officers in the audience.
One of the key points was reworking crime collection data to hold the justice system accountable, particularly in dealing with dedicated repeat offenders and career criminals. I was shocked to learn currently no reporting of data exists to determine how many offences are committed by those who are on some form of judiciously sanctioned release, whether on parole, probation or bail.
Most experienced cops will tell you it is rare to arrest someone for a first offence. We are perpetually arresting and re-arresting crooks with significant criminal records, and/or are out on some form of judicial release or parole. Wouldn’t it be interesting to determine how well (or poorly) the granting of release into the community appears to be working?
The results could then be compared between jurisdictions to determine how each ranks in properly protecting the public from habitual offenders, who unfortunately have a tendency to abuse the freedom provided them by the courts. The public would then have the stark numbers before them to determine the worth to society to continue to permit mechanisms for premature release to offenders, and a dramatic illustration of the cost to new victims when additional crimes are committed by cons who obtained liberty via a slick sob story for the judge or parole board.
It was also interesting to learn offences involving breaches of court orders such as bail conditions or probation are apparently not considered in the crime statistic evaluation. Remarkable, really, as you might think it would be in the best interest of the courts to find out how seriously the conditions they impose are respected.
I anticipate some might not like the unavoidable reality facing them if those areas were explored to a greater depth. The unpleasant truth may be many offenders are a much greater risk to society than their insincere presentations in a courtroom would indicate. We might see the tangible illustration many snicker in their sleeves and consider the system to be nothing more than an inconvenient joke easily played once offenders learn the angles.
The system’s ability to effectively deal with recidivists is simply awful. To minimize or deny the problem only contributes to perpetuating this failure. We need an honest and no-nonsense assessment of the data to unequivocally employ solutions to deal with it appropriately. Law-abiding citizens deserve it.
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