‘Gut instinct is no good’

Considering recent violence and crime policy, Ralph Goodale praises the approach of Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

In September of last year, the Saskatchewan government announced a policy entitled “Building Partnerships to Reduce Crime”. It’s a useful plan with a multi-faceted, community-based approach. Suppression (using the criminal law to deter crime) is just one of three pillars upon which this policy is based. The others are Intervention (working on things like substance abuse, education and employment to change behaviours) and Prevention (providing information, social supports and other activities to steer individuals-at-risk in productive directions).

In introducing the policy, Premier Wall cogently observed “…we won’t arrest our way out of this problem.”

John Geddes looks closer at some of the relevant numbers, while concerns are raised about cuts to border services.

In an op-ed for the Globe, James Sheptycki considers a number of theories to explain gun crime, but ultimately repeats—see here—his call for more research.

There is a demand for quick and easy solutions, and the solutions had better be cost-effective and inexpensive. There is impatience when the response from academic criminologists is for further research. But in the face of such complexity, and to test our understanding, Canadians need to demand evidence-based policymaking. Rationality and reason are required, as well as political will. Gut instinct is no good.

Look around the world and you will see the results of reacting with gut instinct instead of taking time for level-headed research and calm reflection. Despite, or perhaps because of, the current mood of crisis, it is time to step back and coolly assess the situation. Rigorous independent academic research is required. That would provide a strong foundation for evidence-based policy. Let’s hope.




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‘Gut instinct is no good’

  1. Sheptycki is too smart by half. What does he suggest we do for the ensuing decades it will take professional Criminologists to “solve” the crime problem? Sit idly by and watch innocent people get gunned down?

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable for Canadians to lock up criminals for a very very long time, since we haven’t yet “solved” the crime problem. As a non-Criminologist, it seems to me that if you lock away the people that use guns illegally, illegal gun use will go down. I’ll concede that I didn’t spend 2 years of my life trying to disprove the blatantly obvious in a PhD thesis. However, I think the bald faced plain logic stands.

    While I’m sure these Ivory Tower types will soon figure out the proper ratio of Rainbows : Ice Cream that will end crime, while they do that I think erring on the side of caution, by using prison as a deterrent is a completely reasonable and rational response by governments.

    • Except it’s never a deterrent. In case you’re unaware, criminals generally don’t read the Canada Criminal Code to see how long the sentence for a particular crime could be.

      And locking them up an throwing away the key doesn’t work because it winds up eating up the funds that we could be using for things that do work, like putting more police visibly on the street.

    • “What does he suggest we do for the ensuing decades it will take professional Criminologists to “solve” the crime problem?”
      OK, now you’re just playing silly bugger.
      As you obviously know very well, we are not in a position of having no knowledge whatsoever, there is a large body of data and research that can be applied with minimal delay that would point to the policy outcomes (reduced violent crime) that we desire. However, it appears that at least two governments concerned are not interested in any evidence based policy definition (Ford: “yadda yadda”, Toews: well, just about anything he says), instead going exclusively for simplistic, emotional responses.
      Tell us, if you were in a situation of wanting to invest a chunk of money in, say, oil and gas, would you invest it in a company that used simplistic public opinion polls to locate oil & gas deposits (maybe with a bit of dowsing thrown in), or would you invest in a company that used geologists, geophysicists and other technical experts using scientifically rigorous methods to locate those deposits? If the latter, why would you do any different with taxpayers money?

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