Editorial – The crime pandemic

Chris Clegg

Frustration over crime is a subject expressed over and over again in municipal chambers and coffee shops in Alberta.
Almost weekly, the public is expressing concern over light sentences given to criminals. Less than a month behind bars for property crimes, or a slap on the wrist for snubbing court orders, is the norm rather than a rarity. There is literally no fear from any crook thumbing his nose at a judge for not obeying orders because there is little consequence.
There are many reasons this is happening. The first hard fact the public has to realize is you just can’t throw everyone in prison. Our jails are bursting at the seams already.
During the last two years judges were reluctant to throw people in jail because of COVID risks not only to the crooks but also to the guards. It didn’t take long from crooks to figure this out. “Commit the crime, do the time” was the farthest thing on the justice system’s mind.
Politically, the cry for government to reduce crime was heard loud and clear. More police officers and Crown lawyers were hired, but it did little to address the problem. Society was creating more crooks and thieves than the law enforcement and legal systems could handle. The result is a backlog in the legal system where trials are being set more than one year into the future. It is a great byproduct of the system if you work in the system. Call it job security for the legal system.
But the public be damned!
It is frustrating for the public to see fines for shooting a moose or fishing out of season be more than beating your spouse. Actually, it’s disgusting!
And no one in the legal system bats an eye.
How did we sink so low? It is laughable to hear judges admonish criminals during sentencing. There is a lot of tough talk but rarely do judge’s “threats” amount to anything. Light sentences continue to be dished out for the reasons cited above. It is no wonder the majority of the public believes criminals have more rights than thieves.
Sentences are supposed to have two purposes. The first is proper punishment, that being the time should fit the crime. To say that is occurring would be a far-fetched fairy tale.
The second is deterrent. A first-time criminal’s sentence should serve as a deterrent for him/her to not reoffend. While it is true that many do not reoffend, one only has to sit through a court docket and hear the criminal record of repeat offenders. Current sentences are not serving their purpose.
Having the two most important facets of the legal system failing the public should be cause for concern. But the current politicians – many of them lawyers – seem to not care. There just might be a connection here, you think?
The only real solution to the crime pandemic that society has created and is suffering from is to build more jails but it will cost a lot of money. Another problem is that no one wants a jail in their town.
We soldier on with no desire to change the system. Lawyers making money, crooks laughing at the judges, the needs of the public being ignored.
This is acceptable?

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