In the first part of our follow up to the Snapshot on Crime series, we shared some themes and commonalities we found in the informative, thought-provoking responses of community residents and leaders to the report – A Snapshot in Time: The Root Causes of Crime in Waterloo Region. Each contributor reflected on local data in the report concerning one social, community or economic circumstance associated with increases or decreases in crime. We shared powerful quotes from contributors illustrating the importance of individual actions, and the need for transformative changes, like changes in attitudes, in order to address the root causes of crime. There was so much to share, we couldn’t fit them all in to one blog post. Read on….
Multiple Interconnected Roots Require Holistic Approaches
Fear of Crime: Perspectives from a Mayor – Mayor Carl Zehr
The connections between social, economic and community circumstances and crime are complex. There are often multiple circumstances that adversely impact people and communities requiring coordinated, holistic responses to the interconnected roots of crime and victimization.
For example, Jill Stoddart explains that children in care of child welfare “often come from disadvantaged families and have been subjected to maltreatment and neglect” and thus “are often at higher risk of involvement in the youth justice system, homelessness, substance abuse” and other problems.
While being young and male is associated with an increased risk of crime and victimization, Rohan Thompson from the inREACH gang prevention project says “the vast majority of youth crime is being committed by a small number of young offenders.” Further, these youth “have lived and been exposed to risks most of their young life, so participation in a gang is just the symptom of deeper more complex issues…” requiring “a holistic long term approach.”
Since “length of involvement in schooling significantly impacts participation in criminal activity,” school boards go to “great lengths” to decrease the number of residents without a high school education. David DeSantis gives examples of Catholic school board initiatives such as the “Supervised Alternative Learning programs [that] allow students to work full-time, get mental health supports, volunteer hours and accumulate credits.”
Challenging the way root causes are framed
Some writers questioned or re-framed the indicators defined as root causes in the report.
Julie Philips for example, questioned the association of higher crime rates with higher proportions of single parent headed households.
“…children and youth from fragmented households are perhaps just as likely to commit crime as lone-parent offspring. What do I mean by fragmented? A two parent family, where the parents… at the end of the day are too tired, burned out and stressed, leaving little time or energy to actively engage their children. “
Waterloo Region’s reputation as a social and economic innovator was clearly demonstrated by our community’s innovative responses to root causes.
Sue Klassen tells how “restorative justice reduces fear of crime.”
“She [victim] learned that Brianna was not the monster that she had imagined her to be, but a troubled young woman who had been the past victim of rape and abuse, trying to turn her life around. Carol’s fear was transformed.”
Aaron Stauch says that although unemployment rates are improving, this “masks some concerning trends for specific segments of our workforce. Unemployment for youth, new Canadians…and older workers has remained high.” “..There are many local organizations implementing innovative ways of addressing these employment challenges.”
Many writers emphasized the critical need to focus more attention on preventing problems from occurring in the first place.
Amy Romagnoli explains that many community organizations “place great value on early child development as an up-stream approach to preventing negative child outcomes…Programs that promote and offer early learning opportunities need to be prioritized, implemented and given a chance to prove their value in the long term.”
So… where does all this leave us?
First, the good news, crime rates have been steadily falling in Waterloo Region and the Snap Shot in Time report shows Waterloo Region is committed to paying attention to the root cause of crime. “A continued diligent effort to monitor and intervene in the root causes of crime is a powerful tool for ensuring that this trend can continue into the future.”
The overall picture, as illustrated in the report, for Waterloo Region is mixed. Some statistics are positive, such as higher rates of social capital compared to Ontario or Canada. In some areas, such as the percentage of people without a high school education, we are doing about the same. Yet in other areas, like some early childhood indicators, we are falling behind. The picture is incomplete though as some key indicators, such as alcohol consumption and recreational substance use cannot be tracked due to lack of reliable data.
Community residents and leaders described the important work being done in our community to address the root causes of crime and victimization and to build a safe and healthy community for everyone. They shared their insights, stories, and calls for action. One of the important messages is that everyone can make a difference – so join us!
What more do we need to do? Considering all the good efforts already under way, are you satisfied with the work of the community or would you like to do more? Is there a particular area in which you would like to see our community put more collective and concentrated effort?
Essentially…. Where do we go from here? Speak up community, you’re great at this! And you’re great at making things happen too.
Where would you like to get started?