Violent crime in Canada is on the rise in Canada as well as the types of violent
crimes being committed against the public. It has been on the rise for many, many
years. I believe and intend to prove in the following essay that it is societies
responsibility for the rise of violent crime with their unwillingness and inability to
effectively deal with the current trend in our society. In the last few years, a slight dip
in violent crime has been noted, but we must view this with skepticism as no official
statistics are available. As well as this could be an example of society realizing that the
Criminal Justice System is not effectively dealing with the trend of violence in Canada.
This would be true by way of the fact that people are not reporting these crimes to the
police. Generally all the statistics that are gathered and used by the police are based
upon reported crime and no conjecture on unreported crime is included in these official
To fully understand what violent crime is, we must first define what violent
crime is in actuality. All to often, people in Canadian society refer to general
wrongdoing as being a crime. A simple example of this is when grocery stores all raise
their prices for certain food products. People then refer very casually to this act as a
crime or that these prices are criminal. Individuals in our Society often have a fear of
being victimized by others, such as the government, friends and or strangers. This fear
is often equated with crime since all crimes have a winner and a loser or victim as
would be the legal term. This equation often makes involvement in these acts of
"crime" a personal thing. Which results in stronger feelings and sometimes irrational
thinking towards the whole subject of crime. Many times people are not reporting
these crimes because it is their duty in a society to help uphold the laws of ones
society. In actuality, they are reporting the crime for needed compensation whether it
be for medical costs or lost wages. Another reason some people report crimes is
because they are doing it as an avenging act to extract a revenge they could not
otherwise get for themselves. This is a main reason in the fact that police officers need
to investigate reported crimes and determine if a crime had actually been committed or
not. The crimes which are considered to be violent crimes and which I am focusing on,
I shall list next. Any form of an assault on the person, ranging from sexual assault to
Aggravated assault. Robbery, Homicide, Attempted Homicide, and Manslaughter are
all considered violent crimes. These crimes are committed for a variety of reasons that
range from unbelievable to incredible. Some are done for fun, having no real reason at
all. Anger is a major reason for assaults being committed as well as Homicides.
Robbery of a store or mugging of an individual is another reason. As well as pure pre-meditated violence, whether it is a beating or a murder, people use violence to enforce
other things that are considered to be valued reasons for violence. In fact many sub-cultures of Canadian culture, such as gangs have developed differing views on crime
and see the act of assaulting another individual as a way of settling a dispute and/or
argument. A more technical definition would be as follows;
" a crime involves the violation of a norm. Norms are social rules ranging from
the important and the binding to the less important and optional. From which
society makes attempts and rules to regulate behaviour in society "
The Importance of the laws are measured by the level of punishments imposed upon
the offender and the sanctions in place against the law. An example of this is lying and
skipping class are considered to be minor infractions, where as murder is considered to
be one of the most atrocious acts that could be committed by a person.
Since the beginning of Canada, that is to say its formation as a dominion, there
has always been a crime rate for the population. Fluxations and statistics have been
recorded about the happenings of crime in Canadian culture. These statistics have long
been studied by Sociologists and other well known scholars. The crime rate of 1867
and 1987 are just as different as the cultures of the two different time periods are
different. But an interesting correlation has been noted with the crime rates of 1939-1938 and 1980-1988. But the rates of violent crime that this paper is focusing on are in
the recent years. In 1962 the crime rate in Canada was 221 incidents per 100,000
people which rose to 1099 per 100,000 people in 1991. The highest rate of violent
crime in Canada in 1991 was in the North West Territory and was at a rate of 6,294 per
100,000 people and the lowest rate was in Prince Edward Island at a rate of 786 per
100,000 people. When the statistics are given, one must wonder as well as to who is
making up the numbers. The factor of age shows that there is a sharp increase in
criminal behaviour during adolescence and the early twenties of a man's life. The rate
falls sharply after that and the following displays the rates;
12 - 24 : 20% of population -- Makeup 35% of violent crimes
45 and over : 32% of the population -- Makeup 10% of violent crime
20 - 34 : 25% of population -- Makeup 62% of inmates in correctional facilities
for violent crimes.
Another quality of these statistics is the factor of gender. The Canadian
population is roughly half and half for a ratio of men and womyn. Yet 85% - 90% of
arrests made by the law enforcement agencies are male and 97% of inmates in
correctional facilities are male as well. It must be noted that in recent years the rate of
womyn being arrested and convicted has also been rising.
Social class is another major factor in these statistics, where the greater quantity
of arrests and convictions for violent crime are individuals who fall in the lower class
part of our society. Yet if these statistics were to include all crime, the greater quantity
of arrests and convictions for crime would be of a much higher social standing in our
Cultural statistics show that it is probably not a genetic or biological factor that
causes individuals to commit violent crimes. It is shown that the rates of violent crime
differ around the world. Bigger countries than Canada having lower robbery and rape
rates than our country. If these acts were based upon biological factors than bigger
countries would have higher rates since there would be more people within those
biological zones that caused violent behaviour.
Another factor is economical in nature, the following statistics show the
correlation in a small way.
" Decade Decade Average Decade High
1980-88 40% 44.2%(1986)
1970-79 38% 41.3%(1973)
1960-69 37% 38.7%(1964)
1950-59 34% 36.0%(1959)
1940-49 29% 33.1%(1940)
1930-39 35% 43.1%(1933)
1920-29 26% 29.6%(1922)
1910-19 24% 26.6%(1910)
1900-09 24% 26.9%(1900)
1890-99 26% 27.9%(1898)
1880-89 26% 28.5%(1880)
1870-79 22% 28.7%(1879)
1867-69 25% 28.1%(1867)
If the years 1930-39 and 1980-88 are compared, it is found that there were momentous
stock crashes in both of those decades. The stock crash of 1929 was far greater than
that of 1988 but it proves that poor economic times result in higher rates of crime.
With individuals being more desperate and angry at the world and society they live in.
Perhaps even feeling let down by the society they work to build and create. Why
should they respect a society that is not doing what it is supposed to do for the
individual person in that society. The statistics shown prove that even thought there
have been slight dips and rises in the overall rate of violence, it has been on a gradual
increase and shows increases with poor economic times.
In the opening paragraph, it was asserted that it was on the shoulders of society
for the responsibility of these increases in violent crime. The following paragraphs are
the reasons that will prove my arguments. The forces of social control affect every
aspect of an individual in a society such as Canadian Society. That is, it is the attempt
that society makes to regulate behaviour of its citizens within that society. Some
examples of these society enforced roles are our status roles which place us into a
hierarchy that is given to us by society. Their are both positive and negative structures
and factors to enforce these laws rules created by the society. Positive being praise,
wealth and power for abiding by the laws of a given society. Negative enforcers are
disgrace, negative praise etc ... and other forms of deterrence that are created by
society. These levels of punishment equal the importance of the laws that they enforce
in the eyes of the society. Laws against criminal behaviour has the criminal justice
system in place to enforce and act as a form of social control.
"A formal system that responds to the alleged violations of laws using police, courts and punishments ..."
Therefore although society as a whole sees crime as a personal failure and a
choice of the individual to act upon. Society is the anvil on which ideas of good and
evil are wrought and the individuals are hammered into conformity with applied force
that is physical and personality shaping. This act is an integral part of becoming a
social organisation which is defining of its own nature.
Until recent years, there have been many sociological theories to try and explain
the appearance of violent crime in society. In 1876, Caesre Lombross put forth the
idea that stated that there were biological features that would allow to pick out
individuals that would be more prone to commit these acts of violence. He stated that
violent criminals have low foreheads, hairiness and long arms. He stated that criminals
were not as advanced in evolution as the rest of society. Later on in his career he
discarded his previous ideas of criminals having distinct physical features. He
accepted and put forth the idea that social factors hold great importance in the
formation of criminality. Even though he did this, for many years after his death
sociologists tried to prove his theories of biological factors being a great factor in the
development of criminal behaviour. Recently genetics have reinvoked these biological
causes of criminality with the idea that men with the extra Y chromosome are more
likely to be violent offenders than men without the extra chromosome. As of now, no
evidence has been produced to support this extra chromosome corresponding with the
increased likelihood of violent crime. Currently researchers have focused their
attention on the influences of social conditions and customs.
We have recently gone through a recession which has resulted in the
government having to cut their over expenditures resulting in a poor economic
situation. There have been major cuts on an already overwhelmed social safety system.
This has caused greater levels of unemployment, homelessness, anger and disparity.
This may be the cause for the rise in armed/robbery rates around Canada. It has been
shown that in the past when there have great economic hardships, the rate of violent
crime has increased as is with the present day.
Many of the reasons for the increase in social protection and laws has been that
it has been instituted to a higher degree in the Criminal Justice System. Tougher
sentences are being given out as the state fails in controlling the populace. This has
resulted in the system being overburdened resulting inadequate treatment of the alleged
offenders. With services such as legal aid being inadequate and available to only the
most dire cases. With these tougher sentences, people are in jail longer which has
resulted in an overcrowded prison system. The treatment of the prisoners cannot be
considered anything else but inhumane or putting rats into a confined cage. While
these people are in prison, there is nothing special for them to do. There is no
rehabilitation programs or set regiment for the prisoners to follow. Basically the
prisoners just sit around and do nothing except eat, sleep and get angry at the fact that
they have been imprisoned. They just put you into a confined space with a lot of other
individuals who are full of anger. Socially, these people are made to feel alienated with
all their personal rights being taken away from them. Including the right to go where
you please, any basic freedom is taken. This causes them to feel like outcasts in their
own societies who consider them to be failures. The state and atmosphere they are
kept in is one filled with violence and mistrust, and all that comes from violence is
more violence. Criminality is enforced in these institutions as each individual has to
follow a new set of customs and laws that exists as a sub-culture of Canadian culture.
The prisoners hate the outside society for forcing them to be locked up away from the
mainstream of the society they used to exist in. This causes anti - social behaviour to
arise from the prisoners as they assume the role society has given them which is the
idea that they cannot exist in the main society around them.
In the 1960's and 1970's, community based programs were being implemented
and used to try and rehabilitate criminals. It was also the first step towards greater
social control over the population. Yet the results were not satisfactory in the eyes of
the society, so the leaders of the criminal justice system opted out to take the easy way
and implement greater social protection methods. This was achieved by enforcing
longer sentences upon the offenders. This was done even though the community based
programs were working to some degree. No attempt was made to augment these
programs and increase their efficiency.
With all the pages of statistics gathered by the government, no attempt was
made to find out why the main percentage of offenders were male. The statistics show
that something is abnormal in the socialization of males that doesn't conform to the
ideals and norms of the society.
Instead of trying to help the population of prisoners and offenders, violence and
cruelty towards prisoners has only increased. Even though capital punishment has
been abolished, In the years 1980 to 1986, sixty-three prisoners were killed with legal
intervention. That is, they were killed by police or prison guards in the course of
their duties and by their actions which was deemed appropriate by the criminal justice
Between 1979 and 1988 seventy-seven prisoners died per year on average, of
which 33 per year were accepted as suicides. This shows that prison cannot be a
helpful thing to the personal well being of the prisoner as there wouldn't be that many
suicides if it was a helpful and rehabilitative course of action.
With the increase in the prison population, there has also been an increase in the
probationary population. When politicians speak of them as using probation as a
community based program, all they are doing is increasing the amount of government
repressive apparatus used to keep the society it leads down and controlled.
For as long as history books and records have been kept, there has been a crime
rate. The statistics show that the concept and utilization of prisons is not a viable
solution to the violent crime problem in our society. It has done nothing except allow
for the increase of the crime it is supposed to control and allow many deaths to arise
from these systems in place. They continue to repeat themselves as they did with the
two economic crashes of this century. Society has tried to lay the brunt of
responsibility on other factors which have been proved to be wrong and/or
inconclusive. This being the biological factor or the idea that it is a personal failure. If
society would accept the responsibility for what it has created, then perhaps a solution
could be found and implemented for the benefit of all in a society. Every few years,
society comes out with a new improved solution to the problems of violent crime. Yet
the question is never put forth with the idea of the inability to find a solution to a
problem is actually the greater problem that we have. Since the solution cannot be
properly found or instituted if the actual problem is not understood by the people trying
to implement their uninformed solutions. Some areas that could be covered with a new
study is how males are taught to deal with their emotions and problems. Social
upheavals have occurred in recent times and gender roles have been obscured causing
more problems with the continuity of society. Values and ideas are being taught to
new members of a society which are old and out dated methods. This could be a
causing factor into which violence is increasing. As frustration increases and a lack of
understanding of how to interact among different people in a society is gone, the
problems appear to be mounting and getting bigger everyday. The social methods of
control are falling behind and chaos is coming out as a leader in our society.
Fleming, Thomas. The New Crimonolgies in Canada. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Johnson, Holly. Violent Crime. Canadian Social Trends.
Larsen,Nick. The Candian Criminal Justice System. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press Inc., 1995.
Macionis, John J.. Sociology. Scarborough, Ontario: Prentice-Hall Canada Inc., 1994
Roberts, Albert R.. Critical Issues in Crime and Justice. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1994.
Siverman, Robert A., Teevan, James J.. Crime in Canadian Society. Toronto, Canada:
Butterworth and Co. Ltd., 1975.
Sociology 3209 YA
Social Change and Collective Behaviour
The rise of violent crime in Canada
Gavin R. Hemeon
Student # 952 963 171
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