Deal with the root of crime

Please allow me space in your newspaper to express a few thoughts on a subject that seems to be getting a fair amount of coverage in the media at the moment. Before government takes up the recommendations of the Chamber of Commerce that were outlined in its letter printed in the 27 September edition of the Compass I would hope our decision makers appreciate the following.

One cause of involvement in crime is association with delinquent peers. Association with delinquent peers can be caused by weak parent-child attachment. Parents often fail to develop strong emotional bonds to their children when they (the parents) are exposed to economic stress.

Although the Chamber may be against this proposition perhaps a law that mandates a minimum living wage should be enacted. It could alleviate some of the economic stress lower income families experience in our society. Perhaps then low-wage earning parents could find more time to spend with their children rather than working two jobs to eke out a living, thereby strengthening the parent-child attachment.

Drugs and alcohol

There are several convergent lines of evidence suggesting that alcohol consumption, at least in certain circumstances, directly increases the risk of criminal violence. Firstly, alcohol has been shown in behavioural experiments to increase aggression.

Secondly, heavy drinkers are more likely to report committing alcohol-related violent offences than light drinkers or non drinkers. Thirdly, criminal assaults tend to cluster around licensed premises. Fourthly, areas with high rates of alcohol consumption tend to have high rates of violence.

Illicit drug consumption almost certainly does cause crime but not by driving large numbers of otherwise law abiding people into crime. The influence of illicit drug consumption stems from two sources. Firstly, many individuals already involved in crime commit far more offences once they become drug dependent. This is because offenders addicted to expensive illicit drugs usually commit higher rates of property crime to fund their addiction. Secondly, there is some evidence that competition among drug suppliers for control of illicit drug markets occasionally prompts them to engage in violence toward each other.

Unlike alcohol, however, there is little evidence that drugs such as heroin, cocaine and marijuana exert any direct pharmacological effect on an individual’s propensity to engage in crime.

Although the Chamber may be against this proposition perhaps a law that restricts the marketing of alcohol to specific groups of people, such as the younger crowd (under the age of 25), should be enacted. This could decrease the ruthless promotion of alcohol conducted by the brewing companies that has become so pervasive in our society.

If we are honest we can accept that alcohol is not really such a good thing to get kids worked up about constantly. Although the Chamber may be against this proposition perhaps the nightclub owners should finance the financial burden our government faces by having to place extra officers around their establishments till three in the morning.

Because crime is not the result of any single factor or combination of factors, it makes no sense to control crime by any single strategy or set of strategies.

If government is anxious to maximise its control over crime it would be better off trying to influence as many factors as possible, rather than (if they were to follow the Chamber’s recommendations) concentrating all their efforts on turning the country into a police state.

Samuel Cowan

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