Thursday, 24 July 2008

Crime Rates Are Falling and Serbia May Be on the Right Track, but Who's Saying, as Gabriel Heater Did, "Ahh, My Friends, There's Good News Tonight."

Two bits of good news: the Serbian government has tracked down and arrested Radovan Karadzic, the psychiatrist and poet who appears to have masterminded genocide during the last Balkan wars, and crime in Canada appears to have dropped to levels not seen in 30 years. Both are surprises in a way, and restore one’s hope about the state of the world.

Last May shortly before parliamentary elections in Serbia we heard Vladimir Jovic comment on a film by David Homel, Is My Story Hurting You? Dr. Jovic is at the center of the film, which focuses on his work with people haunted by the civil war and its aftermath in Belgrade. He was quite pessimistic about what the elections’ outcome would be because he feared that ultranationalists would win and the cycle of hate would revive. But that did not come about, and now the new government has swooped down and captured Karadzic who was hiding in plain site. Commentators are citing this arrest as a clear sign that those in power in Serbia now do not want to slip back into violence.

The news about crime in Canada is not really news to anyone who’s been paying attention: a string of Statistics Canada reports have repeatedly shown that all sorts of crime have been declining for years. To watch the television news, read many newspapers, or listen to Prime Minister Steven Harper, however, you’d think that it was the other way around. Jeffrey Simpson in The Globe and Mail Wednesday had a fine comment on that. “People hate crime, but the media love it,” he writes. “Crime is bad, and bad news sells…Politicians fear crime, not because they'll be victims themselves but because they dare not explain crime sensibly. It's any politician's nightmare to face a victim and utter anything other than a promise to be ‘tough on crime.’

“Why are crime rates falling?” he asks. “Now there's a fit subject for media inquiry, although exploring it would be more difficult (and less sexy) than reporting crimes, covering lurid trials or fulminating against the latest outrage. Can you imagine a local television newscast (the kind that follows the maxim ‘If it bleeds, it leads’) starting the news with a story about why crime rates are falling?”

The real news, as almost always, is hard to uncover since it may lie in quiet, safe streets—or on a streetcar in the middle of a busy city, which is where Karadzic was arrested. It takes determination and, sometimes, courage to find it or make it.

No comments: