Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Montreal Murders at Record Low, Quebec Youth Crime Down: More Reasons Why We Should Leave Vengeance to the Lord and Not to Stephen Harper

Before the newness of the new year slips away, I want to draw attention to something that happened—or rather didn’t happen—in Montreal in 2008. That is: the number of murders in the area served by the Montreal police (the city itself, and several surrounding suburbs) dropped to 29 from 42 the year before. It was the lowest number since the consolidated police force was set up. Quebec City (the province’s capital and its second largest city) didn’t have any murders at all. And this despite—or maybe because of—an approach to juvenile crime which is far less punitive than the one pushed by the Stephen Harper government.

In comparison, Philadelphia and Phoenix, Arizona report about 400 and 200 murders a year, even though they are about the same size as Montreal. Canada, which has not had a death penalty for more than 30 years and closely regulates fire arms, has murder rates which run consistently about a quarter of those in the US. Between 1996 and 2004, the murder rate in Canada was 1.82 per 100,000 population while in the US it was 6.3 per 100,000.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives campaigned last fall on a platform which pushed getting tough on "youth crime." Quebeckers didn't vote for the Conservatives, in part because of this. They had good grounds to be reluctant to sign on. To quote a Canadian Press story, “figures compiled by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics show Quebec's emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation over incarceration has served the province well. In fact, the youth crime rate in Quebec has consistently been the lowest in all of Canada.

“In 2007, for example, for every 100,000 young people aged 12 to 17 in Quebec, just 1,610 were involved in a crime. In the Northwest Territories, the region where youth crime rates have traditionally been the highest, that figure was 10,491.”

So what does this prove? That punishment should fit the crime, and that vengeance doesn’t work.

1 comment:

Rob said...

In addition to some good points you make, I'd add that in some large American cities, most murders are committed with guns (78% of the 592 murders in L.A. in 2008), while in Canada stabbings are as frequent as gun killings. LA had as many killings in one year as all of Canada though Canada has more than triple the population. You can read more about it on my blog at cancrime.com