Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye - Editor

Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye - Editor

Crime prevention is a long term fix

OPINION: Preventative maintenance is needed for long-term crime prevention to work in this week's editorial.

With Alberta’s economic downturn property crimes have risen leaving innocent folks looking at ways to keep their properties safe.

Rightly so it’s frustrating for people who are looking for answers and punishment to those who have no respect for laws of the land or for people’s property. The solution, some say, needs to be an increase in law enforcement. Send them to jail and keep them there, people say. Make them pay for their actions.

Clearly this is the obvious solution but it doesn’t appear to be fixing the problem of crime in our communities. Unless we find a long-term solution, this issue won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Even in the United States where building more prisons was thought to be the answer, planners are realizing this might not have been the right course of action. Oops.

We spend so much time and money focusing on punishments and ‘rehabilitation,’ which doesn’t seem to be working, that we lose sight of what rehabilitation should actually mean. In Canada it costs over $100,000 per year to keep a person incarcerated. This cost further inflames anger and resentment at those who committed the crimes.

But what if there was a way to think long-term about this issue and change the direction of someone’s life by providing them supports at an early age, before it becomes a problem? Most folks are against this way of thinking and yet no one has really tried it.

What if you were told you could spend more of your money on the things you like instead of on security if this were to happen?

For a fiscally conservative individual the idea of saving money in the long run by spending on social supports now, this is surely a good thing. Consider the annual cost of keeping someone in jail.

That cost is only going to rise and adding more police, correctional officers and special investigators isn’t actually going to fix the problem. If the Unites States has taught the world anything it’s that more prisons don’t actually spell a better life for its citizens.

Another way to look at the issue would be to take into consideration what the City of Medicine Hat did in dealing with its homelessness problems. It turns out it’s cheaper to support these folks by providing them a home rather than putting them into the system. The city is in its second year of being free of homelessness. It has drawn international attention for its efficiency, cost-savings and even more importantly, the humane treatment of its citizens.

Our priorities may need some adjustment.

How well is that ‘War on Drugs’ going anyways? We all know the answer; terribly.

Take a look at the issue of marijuana use. Yes, it’s a gateway drug and yes, it’s not completely clear of the medical benefits of its properties but we’re so determined to rid the world of it we’re not looking at another mind-altering drug that is completely legal. Alcohol.

When was the last time someone overdosed on marijuana? There are individuals who will ruin their lives, and families, for alcohol. Individuals go to drug stores and steal mouthwash to get alcohol in their system. Then they get arrested, go to jail, see a judge and have to pay a fine. If they can’t pay a fine, they go to jail. And then the costs continue.

The idea that prison is the answer is overrated. If we treat people like garbage, it should come as no surprise that they will act in kind.

We are adamant that our tax money shouldn’t go to help these individuals. I hate to burst your bubble, but your tax money is getting wasted in more ways than one.

Let’s use the Canadian Senate as one example. Millions upon millions of dollars going down the drain every single year and the only way to change that is to make a change to the Canadian Constitution. Let’s change that and free up some of our hard-earned cash.

Instead we pick the low hanging fruits and go after criminals and get frustrated with how much we spend to keep them in jail. The idea of ‘It’s not my problem,’ is naive. There’s a chance those problem individuals will affect you or your family or someone you know.

This is an issue that faces us as a society and we need to find a solution through different means because the way we’re doing things isn’t working.