Saturday, December 29, 2007

Prosperity - Prime Crime Time

It's been said that prosperity carries with it more crime. Newfoundland & Labrador is only at the beginning of a period of being "prosperous", with the expected "have-province" status expected to begin in 2009. While there are large developments on the horizon, "and in the ground", a recent local CBC article, eventually gets around to a warning from RNC Chief, Joe Brown, of an increase in crime during the prosperous times.

At this time, NL's crime rate is low compared to the rest of Canada (Stats Can.). Crime in Canada is higher is the western part of the country, and in the north. Here's a CBC story on Yellowknife's "prosperity" problems.

Alberta with it's riches has a higher crime problem than most places in Canada, but it's not just urban places. In fact violent crime is higher in rural areas. There could very well be a link to prosperity, and our province should learn from places like Alberta where a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Safe Communities was set up, and made recommendations related to crime.

Why would prosperity be correlated with increased crime? Some of the reasons may include: there is more money to purchase illicit drgs, alcohol, products; more new homes that are vulnerable to wise bugler street watchers; more people at work and away from home; more mobility in the population, less family support, less community-mindedness; more provincial emphasis on economic development and less on societal issues, for example, programs for youth.

The majority of crimes are committed by re-offenders. Police are often familiar with perpetrators. However, there are still new ones. There are different ways to deal with crime, more police, policing, stricter penalities, and crime prevention.

Prevention is where we can invest in more, now. Getting at the root causes of crime. Our province and people need to understand factors that contribute to a person becoming criminal.

The Alberta Task Force report is large, but here are some recommendations from the report, on what works to reduce crime (p. 37):

What works?

Scientific studies on effective approaches to reduce crime include:

  • Providing enriched services to youth at risk of social problems by increasing their inclusion involvement in positive social activities and job training.

  • Helping small children to develop successfully in their early years. This can reduce child abuse by 70 per cent and cut the percentage of youth offending by 50 per cent.

  • Increasing the training given to youth about non-violent ways of resolving conflict.

  • Helping at-risk teenagers complete high school. Studies show this can reduce the number of youth offending by 50 per cent.

  • Teaching youth skills and expanding their capacity to manage relationships. This has been shown to result in a 50 per cent reduction in bullying as a well as a reduction in illicit drug use and violence (especially against women).

  • Enhancing support (such as enriched home visiting) to disadvantaged mothers who are at risk of not providing consistent care for their young children.

  • Lorraine Michael recently said that with the $881 million surplus, the government of NL should put more into social programs, like subsidies for single moms to return to school, or education programs for youth. That seems like a good long-term investment. It's nice to see larger chunks of the province's debt be chipped away, but the price should not necessarily be higher crime and fear in society.

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