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Crime Statistics

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The reliability and interpretation of crime statistics are an issue with our neighbors to the north, just as they are in the U.S.  John Robson of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute has this op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen.

The problem is not just that we don't have some numbers we ought to have. It's that we have a high-profile, apparently excellent source of data on crime that is unsuitable in important ways. Once a year Statistics Canada releases a comprehensive review of police-reported crime statistics (the "Juristat report"), generally suggesting that crime rates are low, and falling, and generally leading commentators to suggest that anyone who thinks crime is a serious problem in Canada is an ignorant fear monger and probably a hayseed to boot. But in a new study from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, where I am managing editor, former Crown prosecutor Scott Newark makes clear in detail that there are a number of serious flaws in the way the Juristat numbers are collected, presented, and interpreted. The result is to deprive Canadian policy-makers, opinion-makers, and citizens proper information on which to make difficult decisions about the complex social phenomenon known as crime.

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This is probably the wrong way to think of it, but what I think is obvious is that most serious crimes are committed by those who do it repeatedly.
Thus, I think, part of the analysis has to include criminals who slipped through the cracks and got lenient sentences only to reoffend. Additionally, in the US, another focus has to be on illegal aliens who have had contact with the criminal justice system who then go on to reoffend.

One crime, noteworthy in its brutality, stands out. The Cheshire murders. One of the killers, Komisarjevsky, had, over a period of years, burgled over a dozen homes with residents in the house at the time. Any criminal with that kind of record is an extremely dangerous criminal and needs to be dealt with harshly. And if that means that prosecutors don't accept a plea deal and a parole board is educated on how dangerous such a criminal is, so be it.

The upshot is that the three Cheshire murders probably were preventable, in the sense that Komisarjevsky shouldn't have been a free man to commit them. Criminal justice statistics should look at "preventable" crimes, i.e., crimes where if the criminal justice system were up to snuff, they wouldn't have happened. It's imperfect--but if anecdotes like the Cheshire murders were quantified, it might get politicians to notice more and demand more.

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