About those plummeting crime rates...

“We’re tops for property crime,” the Abbotsford Times lamented earlier this week, reacting to the latest crime numbers from Statistics Canada. Seems like something a city of just 130,000 people might justifiably worry about. But perhaps that’s what set Jeffrey Simpson off yesterday:

People hate crime, but the media love it.

Check out the newspapers. Listen to radio or watch television, even the CBC.

Crime is bad, and bad news sells. Crime is emotional, and emotion sells. Crime is abnormal, and the “news,” as conventionally defined, is something “new.” …

So here is one of Canada’s great divides. The media and political elites have seldom talked more about crime, even as crime rates keep falling.

Crime rates have been falling since 1991. They are now back at the much lower levels of the late 1970s.

And so it is:

Now, the 70s had some good things going for them—women’s rights, the Voyager space program and Big Star come to mind. But I doubt Canadians of that era would have been pleased that the crime rate was climbing rapidly, steadily away from what it had been in the early 1960s, and I’m not totally sure why the fact we’ve arrived back there means we should all stop talking about it. I don’t think I’m imagining that some Canadian elites feel “getting tough on crime” is something only a philistine would advocate.

I’m not trying to redeem any one approach to crime-fighting or impugn any other, or to suggest that Canadian governments haven’t mongered more than their fare share of fear. I’m just saying, while lower crime is good, I have great difficulty focusing on the rightmost inch-and-a-half of this graph:

UPDATE: Bob Tarantino and assorted blogging luminaries hashed this out last week.

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