In just 3 days we’ll find out if Tory cabinet minister Stockwell Day was fibbing, or perhaps ad-libbing, or perhaps he’s prescient – when he said in August that the amount of crime that Canadians do not report to authorities is increasing. Day trotted out that strange non sequitur during a news conference when he was asked to justify the billions more the Conservatives plan to spend on prisons because of an agenda that will put many more people behind bars for longer periods. In 3 days, Statistics Canada will release a significant report that will reveal how much unreported crime is out there.
StatsCan’s latest victimization survey is due to be released publicly on September 28. The last such survey, for 2004 , showed that roughly two thirds of all crimes are not reported to police. This update, based on 2009 data, will give an up-to-date picture of the scope of the problem, and more importantly, show if reporting of crime has fallen in the five-year period between surveys. That’s where the Stockwell Day test comes into play.
At his news conference in August, Day said:
We’re very concerned about the increase in the amount of unreported crimes that surveys clearly show.
You have to wonder if Day already had a sneak peek at the victimization stats that are being released Monday, or if he fudged that answer after he was assailed by reporters. If he had it right, it’s cause for concern, since you’d hope that as police ranks grow – and they are growing – and police departments become more technologically and social savvy, that they’d be able to convince citizens to report crimes more easily and more often. Of course, even if Day has it right, it isn’t a justification for locking up more people and building more and bigger prisons. That’s simply the outcome of a agenda focused on punishment.
If crime reporting has declined, it will be time to go back to Day, and anyone else in government who’ll field questions, to ask what they plan to do about. Surely they’d have to make it a priority to convince citizens to report crimes, if they’re sincere about their commitment to punish wrongdoers. How can we punish them, if we don’t know they’ve committed crimes?