Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Conservative Lies of Omission: Part 3 Crime Rates

In one of their later electoin ads, balloon, the Conservatives claimed that in 1995 Martin said crime would be down and Canada would be safer, but, they add, homicides are up and so is drug crime. So is violent crime up since 1995? Of course not. In 2003, the murder rate reached a 36 year low and violent crime is way down since the Liberals took office. The homicide rate did go up in 2004, but one year hardly a trend makes.

These are the facts:

The crime % change 1994 to 2004
Homicide -5.3
Attempted murder -29.4
Serious sexual assaults -32.6
Robbery -14
Total violent crime -9.7

The same broad decline can be found for property crime, down 24 per cent in the past decade, car theft (-3.5 %) and break-and-enters (-36 %)

I am not inclined to give the Liberals much credit for the drop. If there is one thing criminologists agree on it is that the demographic makeup of a society plays a big role. The CBC does a good job of explaining this:

“Violent crime in this country rose steadily during the 1960s, '70s and '80s – the latter being the decade when the Brian Mulroney Conservatives were in power. It peaked in 1992, just before the Chr├ętien Liberals were returned to office, and for the most part has been dropping steadily ever since. Campaigning Liberals might like to take credit for this achievement, but that, too, would be to play loose with the facts.

The underlying reality is that crime rates are largely a function of demographics. Simply put, violent crime is carried out for the most part by young men between their late teens and late 30s; and probably has been since time immemorial. The decades-long rise that culminated in 1992 coincided with the miscreant faction among the baby boomers and the so-called echo generation that followed close on their heels. When that contingent hit middle age, the rates for murder and violent crime fell – and, perhaps not coincidentally, counterfeiting shot up.”

The Conservatives are right about one thing though; drug crime is up way up. It is up 52% over the past 10 years. Marijuana possession charges account for most of increase. Interesting enough, drug crime dropped 8% from 2003 to 2004. So the Conservatives are using 1995 as a bench mark for one claim and 2003 as a bench mark for the other.

Anyway, will drug crime go down when the Conservatives launch their War on Drugs? Not if the US is any guide. According to the US Bureau of Justice, Marijuana arrests have more than doubled in the US since 1991. There is both an opportunity cost and real cost to the tax papers to cracking down on marijuana and failing to follow through on plans for decriminalization. Indeed, the state of California, for example, saved nearly a $ 1 Billion by decriminalizing the personal possession of mere one once of marijuana. M. Aldrich and T. Mikuriya. 1988. Savings in California marijuana law enforcement costs attributable to the Moscone Act of 1976. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 20: 75-81. Add to this the cost to productivity of of needlessly saddling hundreds of thousands of Canadians with a criminal record.

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