Pubdate: Wed, 22 Nov 2006
Source: Esquimalt News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Esquimalt News
Author: Tom Fletcher
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Last week's column touched on crime rates around the province, which 
the B.C. government tracks by health region.

If you look at violent crime, serious property crime and non-cannabis 
drug crime, the safest place to live in B.C. is Vancouver Island. 
Next best is the Interior region, which encompasses the Kootenays, 
Okanagan and Cariboo.

In the middle of the pack is the Fraser region, the largest in the 
province by population, extending from Burnaby through the Fraser 
Valley to Hope.

Second worst is the vast Northern region, which includes roughly the 
top two thirds of the province. And the highest serious crime rates 
are in Vancouver Coastal, which includes Vancouver, Richmond, the 
North Shore and Sunshine Coast.

The good news is that the rate of serious crime has been decreasing 
in most parts of the province, the exception being the North, where 
serious crime went up by more than eight per cent from 2001 to 2004.

The bad news, as I'm reminded by a new discussion paper just released 
by the B.C. Progress Board, is that despite improvements in recent 
years, B.C. still ranks in the top third of Canadian provinces in all 
categories of major crime. We also have more property crime per 
capita than the neighbouring states of Washington and Oregon.

The discussion paper, prepared by Simon Fraser University criminology 
professors Robert Gordon and Bryan Kinney, contains some provocative 
suggestions. When it comes to illegal drugs, for example, the 
professors conclude that B.C. has only three choices:

1. Lobby the federal government to legalize the drug trade, 
controlling it as tobacco and alcohol are regulated today.

2. Eliminate the organized criminal drug trade by way of a major 
expenditure in new police teams, legislation targeting money 
laundering and proceeds of crime, increased penalties and 
construction of new jails.

3. Combine options one and two, with a crackdown on organized crime 
followed by a phased-in decriminalization and legalization.

Of course the Conservative government in Ottawa will embrace 
legalization about the same time Hell opens for public skating. 
Stephen Harper is reputed to be a libertarian at heart, but his 
justice and public safety posse, Vic Teows and Stock Day, are 
hang-'em high "social conservatives" who were appointed to play to 
the party's older support base, and likely would only support 
increased drug penalties.

(As a small-L libertarian myself, I disagree with that approach, but 
it's preferable to the previous government, which repeatedly promised 
to decriminalize pot but never followed through, while opening its 
own low-grade grow-op in an abandoned mine.)

The criminologists argue that legalizing drugs isn't likely to 
increase demand much more. If people want drugs in today's society 
they will find a way to get them, or manufacture even worse 
substitutes like crystal meth.

Nearly all the street crime, the car and house break-ins that 
ordinary people are all too familiar with, is perpetrated in the 
pursuit of drugs. As for violent crime, if you take away the 
drug-related shootings and stabbings, you're left mainly with those 
crimes of passion that are themselves so often committed in a fog of 

The report warns that there is a fourth option, which is to maintain 
the status quo. For B.C. that means continuing to have Canada's most 
lenient courts, which combines with a relatively benign climate to 
make B.C. the destination of choice for Canada's sophisticated criminals.

As things stand, B.C. currently has twice the rate of drug crime as 
any other province. And since legalization is currently not a viable 
option politically, the practical choice would be to increase 
sentences for major drug crime.

The 'Four Pillars'

The SFU report endorses what has become known as the "four pillars" 
approach to drugs, those pillars being education, treatment, 
enforcement and harm reduction.

Regular readers will know what I think of pretend "needle exchange" 
programs where dirty needles are thrown on the street, or unsafe 
"safe injection sites" where dirty street junk is injected with 
nursing supervision.

The whole thing in Vancouver looks like a government agency set up to 
work in conjunction with the heroin and cocaine dealers who control 
the street outside.

The prescription heroin trial that's currently going on in Vancouver 
offers more potential, at least for a few hardcore addicts who don't 
respond to methadone treatment. This type of program is the closest 
this country is going to get to legalization in the near future, and 
it can be done without the national and international political 
backlash that would kill a bolder program.

Free Wine Too

Vancouver's drug policy coordinator recently suggested a program to 
offer free daily rations of cheap red wine to hardcore alcoholics. 
The idea of this program would be to target those who will otherwise 
resort to drinking Lysol or shoe polish or whatever they can get, 
with predictable consequences for them and our idealistic socialized 
medical system that has to fix everyone, no matter what they choose 
to do to themselves.

Personally, I could hold my nose and support such a plan, just like 
the prescription heroin program. If we're going to have a victim 
culture where bad choices are treated as "diseases," with "society" 
and the "government" taking the place of individual responsibility, 
the nanny state might as well provide this welfare for the mind so 
working people can live in peace.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman