Time to speak up

29 10 2011

Our local police force released statistics about crime rates last week, garnering attention both for the drop in overall crimes and for the disturbing increase in certain categories. An increase in the number of local murders, in particular, has resulted  in a 4.2% overall increase in violent crimes vs last year. But the increases in sexual assaults against women and children, and in child pornography, are especially alarming.

Media coverage about the numbers (and some local blogs) quoted area politicians’ reactions to the figures, focused on the costs of policing and the difficulties in comparing numbers across municipalities. Hamilton isn’t Muskoka, one Councillor pointed out. The figures are to be reviewed in more detail. Let’s hope that review considers the costs of these crimes to our community not only in a financial context but in the price paid by victims and their families. Crimes against children, in particular, tear at the very fabric of our neighbourhoods and diminish us all as members of this community.

Hamilton is above the Canadian average for violent crimes. And our rate of sexual assaults against children as well as child pornography has been rising. Policing aside, what are we as a community doing about that? Are we talking about it, outraged by it, seeking solutions to change it? There is much to think about given these latest crime statistics. The thinking cannot be limited, however, to the sphere of law enforcement and municipal government. Conversations need to happen in private homes and coffee shops as well – what do we think about the sentencing handed out to those who prey on children? What messages might we send to make sure the vast majority’s outrage over these despicable crimes is understood?

The burden of finding and apprehending the criminals represented in the statistics rests on our Hamilton Police Service. But they cannot and should not stand as our only response to child abuse, woman abuse, or child pornography. These are crimes with roots in societal issues. These are crimes that send powerful messages, of the very worst kind, to kids. Our continued silence won’t do anything to change that.

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