What I See is What You See?

How do you view crime? Who are the criminals? What should we do about people who commit crime? Should we create more laws, or make laws tougher? Do the police need to do more?

These were some of the questions being asked at a community meeting I attended a couple of weeks ago in Langley City. At that time the infamous Bacon Brothers were making their court début at the Surrey Court House, the notorious gang members of the Red Scorpion Gang, and several gang style shootings had just taken place throughout the Lower Mainland around Vancouver too. People who attended that meeting were fairly riled up about the whole gang issue as every news cast tried to one-up itself with any developments on any gang subject that they could find. People were riding the crime wave.

I remember one person’s view about just how bad he thought crime was as he said “it’s getting out of control,” and that we need tougher laws. “No one who kills another man should ever be let out of prison…, this revolving door is a joke!” he went on to say. And after he was finished, the next person virtually said the same thing, and so on, until it was the members of the panel turn to speak.

The first panellists said so eloquently that crime was actually decreasing, and that we were seeing near 1960s crime levels. She went on to say that our problem was more to do with organized crime across the border and abroad than anything else. The Americans love our BC Bud, and in return, gangs try to fill these niches, and we see power struggles developing as different groups try to compete with one another to try to gain as much power as they can. This crime activity can be traced right down to Mexico and Central America as drugs move into the U.S., guns and money flow out.

The next speaker talked about how the changing demographic is affecting our statistical models on crime. As age and economic strata changes from one community to another, so does the way crime patterns shift also. She talked about girl crimes, and how with changing laws and shifts in demographics, female crimes are now on the radar. For the first time in the last decade the term “girl gangs” has being used by the media, and the public has reacted with more complaints filed with law enforcement officials than ever before.  Still, it is always the youth who are targets for suspected crime profiles, and any group of youths walking down the street can testify that the general public is very concerned when they see them in groups. However, as the speaker said, “It is now a fact that we can say in general terms that it is the parents who were worse than their children are in terms of crime frequencies.” Just a note, oddly enough she didn’t give out any sources for her research during the presentation.

Everyone has their own perspective on crime. For most, their opinion is formed through the media, or a general consensus that says crime is increasing at an unprecedented rate. From the small sample of people that I talked to at this forum, I got a sense that the common view of who a criminal is  was usually based on age, gender and ethnicity. This is in keeping with my academic training, so it was no big surprise, but it was uneasy to hear this first hand.

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