Inside Politics

Toews on crime: Now it's going down

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on Wednesday kicked off a timely and no-doubt interesting -- but mostly closed-door -- conference of law enforcement officials, civilian oversight bodies and academics wrestling with how to manage the rising costs of policing. CBC News is doing an in-depth series on this issue this week.

Among the minister's prepared remarks, this section in particular jumps off the page:

"Spending on policing has increased steadily -- reaching more than $12 billion annually in 2010.

At the same time, over the last decade, the volume and severity of reported crime have both been on the decline.

This has added fuel to the debate among Canadians, who rightfully want to know where and how their tax dollars are being spent."

What Toews says is true, according to Statistics Canada crime rate statistics. Given the theme of the conference, it's a perfectly legitimate point to underscore: as decision-makers figure out how to cut costs and (to use a cliché) "do more with less," they also have to wrestle with how much of what they're doing now is justified according to the latest figures.

The accuracy and relative importance of these Statistics Canada crime rate statistics have been challenged frequently by several ministers in the Harper government -- including Toews -- over the last few years, in explaining the need for often-controversial pieces of crime legislation, not to mention the increased spending required to pay for the Conservatives' justice and public safety agendas:

"The Statistics Canada report showed that the crime rate has decreased by 6 per cent from last year. However, it remains 208 per cent higher than it was in 1962," Julie Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement.

"These statistics show that our tough-on-crime measures are starting to work. Our government is stopping the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

Toews said he's not concerned with crime rate statistics and that much of the "rhetoric" on the costs of C-10 is "not warranted."

"Let's not talk about statistics, let's talk about danger," the public safety minister said.

Toews dismissed reports from Statistics Canada that the crime rate is falling. In July, the statistical agency reported that "both the volume and severity of police-reported crime fell in 2009," three per cent from 2008 and 17 per cent from 1999.

"The crime isn't going down," Toews insisted. "It is still unacceptably high. Canadians should not be subjected to that kind of crime rate."

"The drop in reporting to police is 'very troubling,' and a sign law enforcement should "take the complaints of Canadians more seriously," Toews told CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon.

"We see this continuing trend of more and more crimes going unreported, and that ... I believe is an indication of a lack of confidence in the justice system," Toews said. "And that is why our government is taking the measures that we are taking."

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