Stockwell Day 1, media 0: Goldstein
Unreported crime jumps at an ‘alarming’ rate, proving his ‘absurd’ argument was right
By LORRIE GOLDSTEIN, Toronto Sun
Last Updated: October 2, 2010 11:19pm
http://www.torontosun.com/comment/colum ... 53901.html
Over the summer, Treasury Board President Stockwell Day took a pounding from Ottawa’s chattering classes for observing the amount of unreported crime in Canada is increasing at an “alarming” rate.
Some pundits mocked Day by arguing, incorrectly, that since “unreported” crime can’t be measured, it was absurd for Day to claim it was rising.
Others ridiculed him for (accurately) citing “six-year-old” data from 2004, even though that was the most up-to-date information available at the time.
Last week, Statistics Canada released its latest figures on unreported crime, based on crime victimization data compiled for the General Social Survey (GSS), a scientific poll of 19,500 Canadians over the age of 15, conducted once every five years.
The numbers confirm exactly what Day said.
Unreported crime in Canada is increasing at an “alarming,” or, if you prefer, a statistically significant rate.
The GSS estimates in 2009, only 31% of crimes were reported to police, part of a steady drop since 1999, when 37% were reported. (In 2004, it was 34%.)
Only an estimated 29% of violent crimes such as sexual assault, robbery and physical assault were reported in 2009, a level Statistics Canada describes as stable since 1999, when it was 31%.
However, there have been significant decreases in the reporting of household crimes (break and enter, motor vehicle/parts theft, household property theft and vandalism), down from an estimated 44% of all incidents in 1999 to 36% last year.
Similarly, reported theft of personal property dropped from 35% of all incidents in 1999 to 28% last year.
It’s also estimated 88% of sexual assaults weren’t reported to police in 2009.
One major reason why so much crime goes unreported is the victim believes, rightly or wrongly, the incident is too minor for the police to become involved. (Another is the victim believes reporting the crime won’t do any good.)
But that doesn’t mean the GSS only covers minor crimes.
It’s estimated one in five unreported sexual assaults are sexual attacks, involving physical violence or threats.
To be clear, the latest statistics support Day’s argument the increasing incidence of unreported crime is, indeed, alarming.
This comes, remember, in the face of a political and media culture on Parliament Hill that overwhelmingly opposes Conservative attempts to toughen the criminal justice system and can barely conceal its contempt for such efforts.
By way of illustration, Day’s original remarks about the increase in unreported crime were in response to a reporter mockingly asking him why, as fiscal conservatives, the Tories would “blow” billions of dollars on more prison spending, when crime was declining and thus there was no need.
That was a reference to Canada’s reported crime rate dropping 3% in 2009 and 17% over the previous decade (while remaining 316% higher, for violent crime, compared to the early 1960s).
Day, in citing rising unreported crime, was making the valid point in reply that reported crime rates to police don’t tell the whole story about the actual incidence of crime.
Unfortunately, he also made it in the context of the other half of the reporter’s question, about more prison spending.
This prompted the media to mock Day for citing stats on unreported crime at all, claiming either there was no such thing (untrue), or that unreported crime is irrelevant to prison spending (largely true).
Then again, small drops in the annual reported crime rate, the media’s entire premise for challenging Day on increased prison spending, are also irrelevant to that issue.
What’s relevant, as Day noted, is Conservative measures to toughen sentencing, such as ending the two-for-one discount for time spent in pre-trial custody, create a need for more prison space.
If the Tories toughen sentencing and don’t spend more on our aging prisons, they’ll make prison overcrowding even worse than it is today.
Then they’ll be mocked by the same media accusing them of spending too much on new prison construction, for not spending enough.