TORONTO -- As violent crime increases around the country, some experts are buzzing about the need for a national strategy to address the issue.
One small European city is at the centre of some of that discussion. The port city of Glasgow in Scotland, implemented a municipal strategy 15 years ago to treat violent crime as a social and health issue. From 2008 to 2017, the city saw a 37 per cent drop in violent crime.
Ottawa’s new police chief, Peter Sloly, recently said that he had contacted Glasgow about their work in reducing violent crime. In Canada, violent police-reported crime, which includes murder, assault, sex assault, robbery and making threats, increased by 3 per cent to 1,143 incidents per 100,000 people in 2018, according to Statistics Canada. Data for 2019 was not available at time of writing.
Despite its relatively small size (population is just 300,000), Glasgow’s strategy could be applied on a national level in Canada, University of Ottawa Criminology professor Michael Kempa told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.
“Not without serious challenges,” he added. But the key to that city’s strategy was the “huge amount of coordination” between agencies involved, including health officials, schools, social workers and police.
Glasgow’s multi-agency coordination could work on a national scale in Canada, said Kempa. “We pretty much know what to do, but the challenge is making sure that all of those agencies are keeping track of what the others are doing and, critically, sharing information in a fair fashion.”
There can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution for a country the size of Canada with such a variance in issues, said Kempa, from the intensifying opioid crisis in B.C. to gang violence in Winnipeg and Toronto.
A national strategy would come in the form of a federal-set standard or framework. “What the feds can do well is basically say there are standards to which provinces and municipalities must adhere in criminal justice and crime prevention (and) public safety,” said Kempa. “And then more or less, within that framework, leave it to the provinces to take the lead from the municipalities to come up with programs that suit what they need that nevertheless meet those standards.”
In addition, the federal government could “keep up with hot spots,” he added, and provide emergency resources and a coordinated strategy for specific issues in need of extra support.
Who would pay?
There would be some federal money involved in a national strategy, said Kempa, but the feds would act more like “guardians.”
“I would imagine that (federal money) would be directed to where it was needed for one-off or special issues,” he said. “Provinces raise most of the money for the administration of criminal justice. There’s no reason that the taxes that go to criminal justice, part of it, could go to a crime prevention strategy. So it would be a combination of provincial and federal money and potentially some municipal money. But it’s mostly the municipalities doing the work rather than raising the money.”
Why it could work
Kempa says a coordinated violent crime strategy is “tough on crime” and actually works in reducing incidents.
It’s a very coordinated thing and it works very well. It just requires us to pay attention to what we’re doing on the ground,” he said. “It’s not an abstract theoretical or airy approach to dealing with crime that just eliminates policing. It’s actually directing the police into what they do best by freeing them up from the background issues that lead to crime, to save the resources and energy for actually fighting crime where it’s most severe.”