Revenge of the Ever-Pesky Facts

Uh oh! Bad news for the Bloggin’ Tories’ favourite crime-watcher and intrepid reporter issuing frantic dispatches from the frontlines of the “war zone in Southern Ontario”

New statistics suggest serious criminal offences were on the decline well before the federal Conservative government launched its anti-crime campaign in Parliament.

The figures, reported by Statistics Canada today, indicate police-reported crime was less serious overall in 2007, the year after the Tories took office, than it was a decade earlier. The agency says the crime rate had also dropped, but to a lesser degree.

The agency’s new police-reported Crime Severity Index tracks changes in the severity of reported crimes by assigning each offence a weight, with more serious crimes such as robberies and break-ins given higher rankings. Traditional statistics have looked at the numbers of crimes, rather than rating their seriousness.

The report says the index — billed as the first of its kind anywhere — suggests crime severity fell by about 20 per cent during the decade, driven by a 40 per cent drop in break-ins.

I’m sure the findings of Statistics Canada won’t deter Neo and other paranoid loons of the right-wing from their prurient, fear-mongering hobby of scanning the nation’s police blotters every day, or disabuse them of the crackpot notion that western civilization is being hopelessly corroded by the influx of wickedly immoral brown people and their depraved “leftist” enablers.

29 Replies to “Revenge of the Ever-Pesky Facts”

  1. Facts never stop these guys…I mean we have people from Calgary and Edmonton bemoaning the horrible crimes of Jamaicans in Toronto, not realizing that the crime rates in the decades long Conservative stronghold of Alberta is 3 times that of the Big Smoke.

    Never let facts get in the way of a good hatin’.

    Mike

  2. You know.. you make an excellent point – but one which sorta pervades politics in this Country. We all want easy answers – or at least a huge part of the voting public want easy answers.. and it comes from the left, the right, the middle – don’t tell us that life is hard and sometimes bad things happen – deliver me my “happy-meal” answer.

    We don’t like crime – oh, well, ok, we’ll make manditory minimum sentences, etc., etc.. and people eat their happy meal and stay happy, ignorant of the reality that nothing has really changed.

    From the other side? Well, if you just fully-fund daycare, so we have responsible child care assuring us that our children are raised properly (as that can’t be the job of a parent).. everything will be ok too.. another (expensive) happy meal..

    How about we don’t look to the government to always make everything better? Just a thought.

  3. I don’t blame Neo for this though…he’s a nobody. Harper, on the other, with his lunatic assertion that Canadians “feel it in their guts that crime is getting worse” has pandered to this fear and hysteria, at the worst possible time, to boot.

    The Liberals aren’t off the hook either. Ann McLelland’s shrieking after 9/11 helped to set the tone as well.

    Of course, the mainstream media has a lot to answer for these perceptions as well.

    In the end though, we’re all to blame. Few of us rarely admit that we find crime exciting and a welcome alternative to the rather dull challenges that occupies most of our time. And the simplicity of most crime is easier to grasp than other, more complicated issues that require sustained attention and focus.

  4. How about we don’t look to the government to always make everything better? Just a thought.

    Speaking of easy answers, that’s about the most egregious example.

  5. Ti-Guy — The media has to take a lot of responsibility for the sensational way in which crime is reported, but there’s a reason why “if it bleeds, it leads” and that’s simply an observation about human nature.

  6. It’s driven by vengeance, not justice.

    What gets me is that these people want lower taxes and less government intrusion in their lives. plus more prisons, more arrests and longer sentencing.

  7. A tad contradictory, isn’t it? Not to mention the fact that they want the government to legislate against any kind of behaviour they find objectionable.

    I really don’t get it sometimes…

  8. but there’s a reason why “if it bleeds, it leads” and that’s simply an observation about human nature.

    At particular times and for particular reasons, conventional wisdom is no longer a satisfactory justification. One of the reasons that it’s in the interests of public order for people to be clear-eyed about what dangers they face because irrational fears blind us to the real problems that we should be facing and *do* in fact represent the real dangers that we should be focusing on.

    The human nature you’re referring to is mostly that of a particular community socialised in a particular way, such as the kind one finds among suburban North Americans, whose anxiety about crime is the most irrational I’ve ever come across.

    I’m happy that Statscan has introduced a severity index for reporting crime; I hope it’ll help.

  9. It’s like the people who freak out about flying but don’t give a second thought to the much greater danger in the drive to the airport.

    The exact opposite has happened to me. I dread the drive to the airport now.

  10. Ti-Guy — I’m suggesting that on the part of the media, it’s a logical, calculated (profit-making) response to an irrational fear. Cynical, to be sure, and of questionable ethical merit, but such is the way of things.

  11. Cynical, to be sure, and of questionable ethical merit, but such is the way of things.

    Well, it’s not even working the media anymore, so I’d say it’s a way of things that has run its course.

    CanWest closed at 22 cents yesterday, I giddily point out.

  12. Rob H.,

    A clarification about the position the lefties take. They don’t necessarily think daycare will fix everything, but there is a study that public health advocates always point to.

    http://www.highscope.org/Content.asp?ContentId=219

    The High Scopes Perry Preschool Study was the first and likely the only randomized control trialed study that divided high risk children into two groups, and gave one group high quality preschool with trained teachers a few days a week for a few hours, and taught their parents about child development. The other group got nothing. (This would now be so unethical on human subjects that the experiment can’t be repeated, but the original study is the gold standard.)

    The results were so stunning that Head Start was created, and everyone assumed that FT non-parent involved daycare was required, but all the kids really needed were adults who cared about them, and a program to teach their parents how to become that adult.

    The kids have been tracked for the last 40 years. If you look the site, you’ll see this quote:
    “- Incidence of crime. Only 7% of adults who had participated in the Perry Preschool program had been arrested five or more times, compared with 35% of those who had not participated in a preschool program. Of those in the preschool program group, 7% had ever been arrested for drug-related offenses, compared to 25% of those in the no-program group.
    – Earnings and economic status. Adults in the program group were four times more likely (29%) to earn $2,000 or more per month than were adults in the no-program group (7%). Almost three times as many (36%) owned their own homes, compared to those in the no-program group (13%). More than two times as many (program 30%, no program 13%) owned a second car. As adults, 59% of those in the program group had received welfare assistance or other social services at some time, compared to 80% of those in the no-program group.
    – Educational attainment. Seventy-one percent of those in the program group graduated from regular or adult high schools or received General Education Development certification, compared with 54% of those in the no-program group. Earlier in the study, the preschool program group had significantly higher average achievement scores at age 14 and literacy scores at age 19.
    – Marriage and single parenthood. Forty percent of women in the program group were married at the time of the age-27 interview, compared to 8% of those in the no-program group; and 57% of women in the program group were single parents, compared to 83% of those in the no-program group.”

    So that is why you will see so-called lefties calling for daycare.

    Really, preschool for high-risk kids does prevent crime, there is no question, but it doesn’t make the headlines, right?

  13. “…on the part of the media, it’s a logical, calculated (profit-making) response to an irrational fear.”

    In Edmonton the media tend to talk to a criminologist from the U of A – Bill Pitts. Only, he is not a criminologist; he is an ex-cop who teaches a course in criminology. He also happens to believe that higher sentences will result in reduced crime, and that all young offenders commit crimes because they believe that “kiddie court” will not punish them. He has no studies or research to back that up, but he is quoted as a university criminologist so it give him credibility. The real criminologists – the ones who have done research and published on the subject – are largely ignored by our media.

  14. “I’m happy that Statscan has introduced a severity index for reporting crime; I hope it’ll help.”

    I don’t know.

    When I was a kid, there were always bullies who pushed other kids around and took their lunch money, or their bus pass etc. In my day (oh so very long ago) they would be dealt with by the school and parents/guardians. Now they are charged with robbery and dealt with by a judge.

    This kind of robbery would be categorized the same way as the guy who walks into a bank with a gun.

  15. Gayle, so true. I always think it’s better to have parents and teachers do a really thorough job of dealing with bullies than calling the cops.

    Barbara Coloroso has an excellent book on the subject that she wrote after Columbine. She knew the kids involved because it happened in her hometown. She often talks about how different things would have been if their parents and the school had gotten them the help they needed.

  16. This kind of robbery would be categorized the same way as the guy who walks into a bank with a gun.

    That’s not what I understand by the severity index. I’m reading up on it here but this:

    “The specific weight for any given type of offence consists of two parts. The first component is the incarceration rate for that offence type. This is the proportion of people convicted of the offence who are sentenced to time in prison. The second component is the average (mean) length of the prison sentence, in days, for the specific type of offence.”

    …would indicate that the two offences you cite would not be assigned the same weight.

  17. Thanks for the link, but I think you are wrong. This is what it says:

    “Each occurrence of a particular offence is assigned the same weight regardless of the specific outcome of any individual case. For example, all robberies reported by police carry the same weight in the Index, regardless of the specific characteristics of each incident.”

  18. I read that afterwards and it does sound like they would be assigned the same weight. But do you think it’s statistically significant? And do all robberies fall under one type only? I thought we distinguished between armed robberies and such.

  19. ot, but in the study aurelia cited, it is interesting to note how far the program participants still lagged the statistical mean in the US. goes to show what a struggle it is for this high risk group to reach a middle class lifestyle. head start is only a start it would seem.

  20. All robberies would fall under the same category, as they all fall under section 344 of the criminal code.

    I do think it is statistically significant because I doubt most people understand that bullying someone for their Ipod is a robbery. This is particularly significant with youth, as the vast majority of robberies committed by youth (at least in my experience) are of the bullying variety. Yet, when those numbers go up people go ballistic about how youth violence is increasing, when most of those offences are not particularly violent.

  21. I do think it is statistically significant because I doubt most people understand that bullying someone for their Ipod is a robbery.

    Statistically significant in the amount of robberies reported to the police that are really youth bullying as a proportion of all robberies?

  22. Yes – as it relates to youth. In my experience, which is limited to Edmonton, approximately 80% of robberies involving youth are of the bullying kind.

  23. Can’t help you there TG. All I can offer is my opinion, which is based on experience, most of which I cannot discuss.

    No one keeps statistics on the facts that underly robberies, which is kind of my point.

    What I can tell you is that I am currently dealing with 14 youth who are charged with robbery, and all but three of those robberies are of the bullying nature. That is pretty standard.

  24. In any case, my point was that I like the idea of better metrics for crime statistics, like severity, your concerns about bullying notwithstanding.

  25. I get that, but I fear that it will still not reflect the reality, at least where youth are concerned. There is already a big desire to toughen up the YCJA, and it bothers me that so much of it is based on ignorance, which this change will not fix.

    That said, it is much better than what has been in place up to now.

  26. It’s funny, people act like mandatory minimum sentencing is cost free… “funny” as in “divorced from anything like reality”

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