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Crime Rates Continue to Decline
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
G. Shawn Swarts
Shawn graduated with a law degree from University of Western Ontario. Shawn articled in Ottawa, specializing in criminal defence work. Since his call to the bar in 1991, he continues to practice in this area.

Contrary to most people's perceptions, crime is not on the increase or rampant in Canada. Sadly, our media tends to focus and sensationalize on the extreme cases, which has led to a general belief that violent Crime is rampant or on the increase in Canada. But just released statistics from Statistics Canada shows that it is quite frankly not true.

Canada's crime rate was at it's highest in 1991. Since then, there has been a steady decline in the crime rate for the last twelve years. This drop in the crime rate includes a reduction in crimes of violence and property offences and drug offences. The only increase in crime was that of counterfeiting, a direct result of better technology to discover those fake bills.

The homicide rate in Canada is now at the lowest level it has been since 1967, almost forty years. Ironically, the homicide rate in Toronto is 1.9 per 100,000 residents compared to Saskatoon which is 3.3 per 100,000 people last year. Again, showing that people's fears of the big city are in reality misplaced.

In respect to types of offences out of the 2.5 million Criminal Code charges last year, 51% were property related offences and just 12% involved violent crime.

In respect to marijuana and drug offences, that rate fell 8%, the first such drop since 1993. The drop in drug offences seems to be a direct result of a decline in most jurisdictions in the prosecution of simple possession of marijuana offences.

In larger communities such as Toronto and Hamilton where an individual is found with a small amount of marijuana, generally the item is seized and no charges are laid. However, in our jurisdiction I can indicate that virtually all simple possession charges are prosecuted in Norfolk County. Perhaps these regional discrepancies are just another reason to consider decriminalization or legalization of marijuana.

The decline in both property and violent related crimes for the last decade should be considered the next time our politicians are attempting to erode our rights via a law and order type of campaign. It should also be considered next time the local police representative are demanding more money, more police, more equipment and playing up the general public's fear of crime in an effort to gain more resources for the police. Why if crime is dropping do we continually need to hire more and more police?

The reality is, a headline that says "less crime" does not sell near as many papers as a headline screaming out some notorious crime. Just remember, the reality is you are as safe now as you ever were.

Shawn Swarts is a partner at the law firm of Cobb & Jones, who practices primarily criminal and civil litigation. Should you have any questions for Ask A Lawyer, please direct them to the Simcoe Reformer or ask a lawyer of your choice.

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