Pubdate: Mon, 28 May 2007
Source: Chronicle Herald (CN NS)
Copyright: 2007 The Halifax Herald Limited


WHO doesn't want safer streets? Finally, an issue that every Nova
Scotian can get behind.

The justice minister's task force report on crime in Nova Scotia was
released last week. It contained 18 recommendations, including hiring
more police officers and imposing stiffer sentences. The key message
to government from the high-level report: Nova Scotians are fed up
with violent crime, lenient court sentences and the lack of services
for youth.

There is reason for concern: Take a look at the most recent crime
statistics, included in the task force's report. Nova Scotia's overall
crime rate in recent years has decreased, but it remains the highest
among the Atlantic provinces and marginally higher than Canada's
overall crime rate. Also, unlike the national trend, the youth crime
rate had increased in the three years prior to May 2006.

So, last year, provincial Justice Minister Murray Scott struck a Task
Force on Safer Streets and Communities, which travelled the province
and talked to about 800 people, in 21 public meetings and 23 focus
groups, to gather views on crime.

After months of consultations, the volunteer task force handed over
its report to the minister. Many of its recommendations had already
been made by former justice Merlin Nunn following his inquiry into the
death of Theresa McEvoy.

Other recommendations involve crime prevention, early intervention at
schools, creating a provincial drug strategy, alternative court
processes and fighting racism. Mr. Scott admitted these are not new
ideas and promised to review the recommendations, which will form part
of the government's new crime prevention strategy to be released this

The task force found street crime, particularly the behaviour of a
small number of out-of-control youth, "dismayed many Nova Scotians.
Communities were also experiencing the impact of illegal drugs,
especially in schools, and leading to incidents of property crimes and

Crime also has an economic cost. Nova Scotia's Justice Department has
no current statistics on this area. However, a study done eight years
ago by a non-profit research group, GPI Atlantic, estimated the cost
of crime in Nova Scotia at $1.2 billion a year or $3,500 per household.

Nova Scotians told the MacDonald government they don't want this
report to sit on a shelf and making the streets safer is a complex
issue. It may require the government to spend more money on correcting
the social and economic inequalities that appear to be the cause of
many crimes committed, along with hiring more officers and possibly
tougher sentences. 
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