Overcrowding in LA

Canadians want to fight crime, but Conservative Party proposals to increase incarceration aren’t likely to work.

Based on our analysis for the Canadian Centre for Safer Communities, there is a way to significantly reduce violent crime within the next five years. It requires becoming not “tough on crime,” but “smart on crime” before it happens.

This approach requires governments to invest in enough proven prevention measures to greatly reduce injuries, trauma and loss of life stemming from violent crime.

Cities like Glasgow in Scotland have demonstrated a 50 per cent reduction in violence in just three years by appointing a senior official to expand the use of proven programs.

The city’s community safety plan diagnosed the risk factors and focused proven prevention initiatives on those most vulnerable to violence.

The U.K. government is replicating the Glasgow model across the country and evaluating whether it’s working. The city of London has adopted the Glasgow model via its Office for Violence Reduction, and in four years has seen a 25 per cent reduction in homicides and robberies.

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Horner recommendations

Thirty years ago, Bob Horner, a staunch Conservative and former RCMP officer, chaired a parliamentary committee on crime prevention in Canada. He was blunt: “If locking up those who violate the law contributed to safer societies, then the United States should be the safest country in the world.”

But Horner did not just criticize, he made recommendations on how to prevent crime. He correctly called for an official at a senior level to be solely tasked with putting effective prevention into action. Unfortunately, two decades later, there is still no such senior official responsible for reducing violence and advocating for the smart investments needed to do so.

Horner also called for an annual investment in crime prevention equivalent to five per cent of the expenditures spent on policing and criminal justice. No government in Canada has reached this modest target.

Instead, a rising $18 billion is spent on policing annually and another $6 billion on prisons as violent crime ticks back up.

Both the Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper governments allocated the equivalent of one per cent of their federal policing and prison expenditures to a strategy that consisted of little more than small, short-term crime prevention projects unlikely to influence national rates of violence.

Public Safety Canada’s own evaluation of its national crime prevention strategy recognizes two challenges: First, the work of crime prevention is split between two departmental branches — emergency management and crime prevention. Second, it lacks the technological infrastructure to monitor and learn from the results of programs aimed at preventing crime.

Public Safety Canada’s annual spending on expanding proven prevention programs that tackle the causes of crime are woefully short of the equivalent of five per cent of its annual expenditures for the RCMP and Corrections Canada. Not surprisingly, Public Safety’s departmental plan shows it does not meet its own targets for reducing crime nationally.

Preventing violence

We have stronger evidence today than in 1993 on what prevents violent crime before it happens. That evidence is publicly available from various sources, including the United States Justice Department’s Crime Solutions platform.

As part of our analysis, we examined Crime Solutions and several similar platforms to explain to decision-makers how these programs are proven to stop violence and how to implement them.

Public Safety Canada has a crime prevention inventory based on results from some of its own short-term prevention projects, and illustrates the savings in tax dollars. The U.K., meantime, is spending $350 million over the next 10 years just to share their effective prevention strategies.

Key components of these proven solutions include:

Hiring and training social workers and mentors to reach out to young men prone to involvement in violence and to assist with trauma;

• Recruiting case workers to join surgeons in hospital emergency rooms to ensure that victims of violence do not make repeat appearances;

• Helping young men with problem-solving skills and emotional regulation to control the anger that can lead to injuries to others;

• Providing opportunities for job training, mentoring and jobs in areas where the violence originates;

• Participation in courses that prevent sexual violence by shifting social norms about consent in schools and encouraging students to take action as bystanders at universities.

Community safety planning

Ontario changed the name of its policing law in 2019 to the Community Safety and Policing Act with a new section that requires municipalities to develop community safety and well-being plans.

Success depends on help from professionals, such as the Canadian Centre for Safer Communities, to identify strategies that will tackle the risk factors that contribute to crime. Efforts must be focused on getting measurable reductions in crime, such as a decrease in police reports and fewer injured victims entering hospitals.

The federal government must accelerate this change in approach by appointing a senior official for violence prevention. Ottawa must also develop professional community safety planners, raise awareness nationally about proven solutions and provide tools to achieve and track results.

Smart investing of $1 billion a year in prevention by all orders of government — or the equivalent of five per cent of the billions spent on policing and punishment — would significantly reduce injuries, trauma and lives lost while protecting citizens.The Conversation

Irvin Waller, Emeritus professor of Criminology, L’Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa and Jeffrey Bradley, Ph.D. Candidate, Legal Studies, Carleton University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.