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Did America Cause Canada's Crime Spree? By: David Frum
National Post | Thursday, January 05, 2006


After a spasm of heart-rending, frightening violence, Toronto's Mayor, David Miller, and its news media want Torontonians to remember one thing: The city is very, very safe. Really.

"Chicago: 445 homicides. Washington D.C.: 195 homicides. Baltimore: 268 homicides. Toronto: 78 homicides." So opened a story in Sunday's Toronto Star.

If there is any problem in Toronto, the Mayor insists, it is traceable to the United States: "The U.S. is exporting its problem of violence to the streets of Toronto," David Miller complained on Dec. 27.

And naturally Prime Minister Paul Martin agreed. "What we saw yesterday is a stark reminder of the challenge that governments, police forces and communities face to ensure that Canadian cities do not descend into the kind of rampant gun violence we have seen elsewhere."

Feel better now? Well, don't. The Prime Minister, the Mayor and the media are hiding crucial facts. Here are three:

1) America's crime problem has dramatically improved, while Canada's is becoming seriously worse. Toronto's 78 homicides in 2005 appears to compare favorably to the homicide totals of the three American cities cited by the Star. But those 78 Toronto homicides in 2005 represent a 28% increase over the 61 homicides recorded in Toronto in 1995. Meanwhile, the three U.S. cities cited by the Star each achieved dramatic decreases over the past decade: Chicago down 46% from 823, Washington down 46% from 365, Baltimore down 17% from 322.

More broadly: Canada's overall crime rate is now 50% higher than the crime rate in the United States. Read that again slowly--it seems incredible, but it's true. It's true too that you are now more likely to be mugged in Toronto than in New York City.

2) America's crime problem is becoming concentrated in ever fewer places, while Canada's is spreading out to ever more places.

The United States is a huge country, and it will always be possible to find a jurisdiction with shocking crime numbers. The overwhelming majority of Americans, however, live in places that are becoming steadily safer. Since the early 1990s, crime rates have dropped in 48 of the 50 states and 80% of American cities. Over that same period, crime rates have risen in six of the 10 Canadian provinces and in seven of Canada's 10 biggest cities.

3) While American cities and states are adopting anti-crime policies proved to work, Canadian cities and provinces are adopting policies proved to fail.

Over a decade of successful crime-fighting in the U.S., criminologists and police departments have learned some important lessons.

Bluntly: prison works. Criminals do not commit crimes while they are held in prison. Yet a Canadian criminal is 80% less likely to go to jail than his American counterpart.

Putting police on the streets works. Yet Canada employs 25% fewer police officers per capita than the United States.

Enforcing laws against vagrancy, prostitution and drug dealing works. Yet Canada is either decriminalizing or tolerating all three. The right kinds of gun laws work too: for example, extending the sentence of any criminal who commits any crime--down to jaywalking--while in possession of a gun.

Gun registries and gun bans on the other hand do not work. Youth programs do not work. Counseling does not work. Grants to community activists, peer counselors and after-school facilities do not work. The $50-million Paul Martin has just announced for local crime-prevention will be directed to individuals and groups connected to the Liberal party's patronage machine. That money will do nothing to enhance the safety of the City of Toronto. And if it finds its way to individuals or groups who lobby against effective law-enforcement, that money will actually make the problem worse.

It is not guns from across the border that threaten Canadians. It is the weak and cynical policies of home-grown politicians, and especially the Chretien/Martin Liberals. The $2-billion wasted on the gun registry could have paid for more cops, more prisons, more of everything that would protect the lives and security of Canadians. It is the federal Liberal government that releases young offenders back into the community, the federal Liberals who appoint the judges who refuse to punish, the federal Liberals who run the prison system as if it were a summer camp, the federal Liberals who refuse to deport immigrants who break the law, the federal Liberals who have subordinated public safety to ethnic politics.

And then it is the federal Liberals who have the gross and extreme indecency to try to exploit for their own selfish political ends the crime and grief and suffering for which they bear so much of the blame.

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David Frum is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and writes a daily column for National Review Online.


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