Leaner government, less crime

EdmontonSun.com – opinion/editorial
Posted: Friday, December 16, 2011.

You’ll forgive us if the Maclean’s announcement that violent crime has plummeted over the last five years in Edmonton doesn’t make us feel all warm and cosy. It hasn’t stopped us from shattering homicide records.

Maclean’s used stats from homicides, robberies, assaults and sex assaults, and figured out that since 2005, cases are down 34% in Edmonton. Yet murders are up.

It may seem incongruent, but this actually isn’t surprising when we take a close look at the numbers and realize that the key is income inequality.

The only three cities in the country with double-digit violent crime increases were all boom towns: Sherwood Park, St. Albert and St. John’s, N.L., where the influx of wealth drove up criminal opportunity.

Gangs crime and drug crime in general are responsible for most homicides. Gangs make nearly all of their income from vice or theft; but vice — drugs, prostitution, expensive stolen goods— requires disposable income.

Every other city saw declines, because they suffered more economically over that period than they benefited. Less disposable income equals less vice, equals less gang crime, equals fewer homicides.

The only two other cities with increases at all — both single digit —were Saint John, N.B., and Thunder Bay, Ont., which were both economically devastated by declines in the pulp and paper industry, among other losses.

The latter two cases demonstrate that economic desperation — true poverty — drives people to crime. The former three prove that the desperately poor — typical targets for gang recruitment —  find more opportunity in vice-laden boomtowns.

Governments across Canada — but particularly resource-rich places like Alberta and Newfoundland — must recognize in setting policy that the best way to lower violent crime is to improve income equality .

This will take a rethink of politics and governance as a whole. While corporate corruption and greed are sometimes dramatically under-regulated, still, the actual processes of doing business are often massively over-regulated, as a consequence of bureaucratic silo’ing.

Can we develop leaner governments that protect us better from economic disparity through fairness? Answer that question, and violent crime will go down everywhere.

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