Winnipeg, March 12, 2013: Today the Frontier Centre for Public Policy released More Police Does Not Equal Less Crime authored by Steve Lafleur and Andrew Newman.
Politicians and media outlets regularly create the impressions that there is a crime problem in Canadian cities. In reality, Canadian cities are safe, with the exception of a small number of distressed neighbourhoods. They are so safe that the odds of being killed by a stranger in a given year (1 in 500,000) aren’t much higher than the odds of being struck by lightning (1 in 775,000).
Canada’s cities are among the safest on earth. Even relatively high crime cities such as Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg have homicide rates that are roughly equivalent to some of the safer American cities such as Seattle, Minneapolis, and Portland most years. Despite periodic upswings in violence, such as the spate of gun violence in Toronto during the summer of 2012, Canadian cities are safe.
While politicians and activists are quick to call for more police officers during strings of violent crimes, it isn’t clear that more police would lead to significant crime reductions. Studies from around the world have demonstrated that an increased police presence can reduce crime in hot spots, if accompanied by the right strategies. But with the exception of a few neighbourhoods, such as Regent Park and Jane and Finch in Toronto, William Whyte in Winnipeg, and North Central Regina, there aren’t many hot spots to target in the first place. Conversely, some simple staffing changes, based on best practices, could free up sufficient resources to increase police presences in those areas.
It is important to recognize that while gang violence can be sensational, it is generally not immediately preventable. People who make their living evading the law are quite good at doing so, making inter-gang violence difficult to stop. The most effective ways to reduce gang violence are either by reducing their monopolies on certain banned substances, or by working to prevent young people from joining gangs in the first place.
Rather than simply increasing police staffing, municipalities should focus on efficient staffing strategies, and on targeted interventions in distressed neighbourhoods.
About the authors:
Steve Lafleur is a public policy analyst for the Frontier Centre, currently based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He recently graduated with a Master of Arts Degree in Political Science from Wilfrid Laurier University, and is a former Research Associate at the Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Oregon. He is currently a Contributing Editor for NewGeography.com, where he writes about a variety of public policy issues relating to North American cities. His works have appeared in such publications as The Oregonian, The National Post, The Boston Globe, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and Reason Magazine.
Andrew Newman is a research intern at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He holds a Bachelors degree, with honours, in History and Political Science from the University of Guelph and a Masters degree in Canadian Politics from the University of Calgary. His research interests include constitutional freedoms, civil liberties, property rights, police accountability and urban issues.
Download a copy of More Police Does Not Equal Less Crime here.
For more information, media (only) may contact:
Frontier Centre for Public Policy