LETTERS: Many factors in crime rate decline


Re: Crime in Surrey down by four per cent in 2018, Jan. 23.

The recently released crime rate numbers for Surrey, and the overall decline of crime (both property and violent), confirm what some criminologists have been saying about the disconnection between public perceptions that crime is rising (or even “getting out of control”) in Surrey and the realities of declining crime. And the declining crime rates in Surrey, a trend over several years, not only 2018, should give us pause in considering appeals for more police or increased police budgets in Surrey.

We must also avoid the mistake of assuming that declining crime rates result solely, or even predominantly, from policing. This assumption seems to provide an undercurrent of the present article, with its focus on the RCMP.

Declining crime rates represent a trend observed over the course of decades.

Statistics Canada research concludes that many social factors have contributed to declining crime rates in Canada, with no direct relationship to increased policing. In the words of StatsCan: “Experts have not reached a consensus on why crime has been declining since the 1990s, but several factors have been cited as possible explanations.”

Decades of criminology research arrive at similar conclusions.

In 2013, the police-reported crime rate was at its lowest level since 1969.

According to StatsCan, the potentially explanatory factors that come up in research include aging populations, the growth and spread of technology (especially technologies that can be accessed in home), shifts in unemployment, changes in alcohol consumption, neighbourhood characteristics, or even shifting attitudes towards illegal and risky behaviour.

Notably, similar, consistently downward, trends in crime rates have been observed in other liberal democratic, industrial countries like Canada.

And in those cases, too, there is no single factor that explains the crime-rate declines.

Dr. Jeff Shantz, Department of Criminology, KPU Surrey

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