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The Real Impact of the Economy on Calgary Crime

January 12, 2016

Whenever times get bleak for Calgary we get inundated with articles like this, linking the depressed economy to increased crime rates and sowing more fear, which is the exact opposite of the response necessary if we actually want to solve the problem.

It's true that crime overall tends to spike whenever there's an economic downturn, not just in Calgary but in pretty much every society the world over. The types of crime that that tend to see a major increase, though, are things like drug use and petty theft.

Drug use because some people turn to intoxicants as an escape from lives that have become more stressful and arduous in hard times, and which is entirely victimless except for those who suffer from drug addictions (which is, again, why drug use should be dealt with as a public health rather than a criminal justice issue).

Petty theft because small acts of desperation are more commonplace when people can't make ends meet. Planned heists, organized crime, and major crimes against society aren't on the rise, and certainly aren't boosted by a bad economy, but we're told that rising levels of poverty—however temporary—are a cause for major concern not because our fellow Calgarians might be struggling, but because our fellow Calgarians are turning into criminals.

It's not exactly the way to go for a supportive, progressive community, and it's not a fair representation, either.

The article linked to above, for instance, cites statistics like the fact that bank robberies in Calgary rose by 65%. They don't mention that Calgary Police believe one suspect committed around a dozen of Calgary's bank robberies in the past year, and that another group is responsible for another major portion of the bank heists. Linking acts to the economy is shaky at best, and it certainly isn't a widespread problem—all it ever takes for a major spike in bank robberies is a few individuals to get the idea and decide to take the risk.

The type of rhetoric used in this and similar articles has the effect of convincing many in Calgary to close ranks, to stop trusting and helping others, and to let fear for their own property outweigh their concern for other people's ability to get by. As people become shut off from each other and the means for getting assistance grow ever slimmer and fewer, you can expect petty crimes to continue to rise—the problem will only exacerbate itself as long as this is our response.

Instead of closing off, we should be opening up, making sure food, housing, and other necessities are available to those who might otherwise turn to petty thefts or succumb to drug addictions when confronted with economic hardships. We should be helping rather than fearing each other, and working to return Calgary to the thriving city we know it naturally is rather than waiting huddled in the corner for things to get better.

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This entry was posted on January 12, 2016


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