Crime prevention means more than law enforcement, Nunavut report says
GN will use community comments to help draft future crime prevention strategy
Nunavut residents seem to agree that traditional law enforcement — by itself — isn’t preventing crime.
That’s what people from every Nunavut community seem to believe, based on a report entitled “Public Engagement Report for the Crime Prevention Strategy,” that the Aarluk consulting firm prepared for the Government of Nunavut’s community justice division.
The report, a compilation of thoughts and ideas that GN staff heard during a Nunavut-wide tour that started in the fall of 2013, will help the GN draft a Nunavut Crime Prevention Strategy.
“As the minister of justice, my department and I are committed to exploring, developing and supporting the most effective crime prevention programs for Nunavummiut,” Justice Minister Paul Okalik said in the report’s introduction.
The report is based on the assumption that tough law enforcement focusing on offender apprehension and incarceration is detrimental to the community.
“And while these interventions have proven their relative effectiveness, research has shown that enforcement is not enough,” the report said.
The study said the GN should invest more in community and territorial crime prevention programs to complement traditional law enforcement.
“Investing in crime prevention through policies and programs that address the underlying factors contributing to crime is necessary if we are to make Nunavut a safer place,” continued the report.
A Statistics Canada report from 2015 concludes that the crime victimization rate in Nunavut declined by about 20 per cent between 2010 and 2014.
It also showed the raw number of crimes reported to police declined by 14 per over the same period.
But another report in the same year from StatsCan said Nunavut is still third in crime among all territories and northern provincial regions with 32,345 incidents per 100,000 — four times the national average.
The Aarluk report suggests that people in Nunavut communities believe drug and alcohol abuse is the greatest source of crime.
And the report quoted community members who demanded the GN invest more in substance abuse programs, counseling and bootlegging prevention.
“We need an addictions treatment centre in Nunavut. Right now, people have to go to Ottawa for treatment. We need something here,” said one resident from Arctic Bay.
Residents also called on the RCMP to do more effective screening at airports for inbound contraband.
Involvement of the police within the community, some said, also needs to be improved.
An underlying distrust of the RCMP on the part of Nunavummiut results in communication, only “when the situation is very serious, and not before,” a Kimmirut resident said.
For the RCMP’s part, they acknowledge there is a distrust that goes back years.
“But there is a willingness to build trust and nurture and cultivate better relationships between the RCMP and residents. We are prepared to meet the town halfway but they have to do their part,” says a statement in the report attributed to the RCMP.
The RCMP could not be reached for further comment.
The report also cited calls for the government to speed up the processing of offenders through the court system.
Multiple communities visited said processing delays and general slowness in the system are detrimental to a convict’s reintegration into society, and contributes to a cycle of crime.
“Hiring a probation officer in each community would help alleviate crime,” said a resident of Whale Cove.
“Too many people are falling through the cracks as they have to deal with a probation officer who is not in town.”
An Iqaluit resident suggested the creation of an advocacy group for offenders in Nunavut, similar to the Elizabeth Fry Society in the south, which advocates for women in prison.
The majority of inmates at Nunavut’s territorial prison, the Baffin Correctional Centre, are in this facility on remand while their cases wait to be processed by Nunavut’s courts.
Beyond the direct causes of crime in Nunavut, many residents quoted in the report blamed lack of food, the high cost of living and overcrowded housing.
“There is a major issue of overcrowding, with 15 to 17 people in a house, which means people don’t have privacy,” a resident of Repulse Bay said.
GN officials conducted the community tour between November 2013 and May 2014, but the report did not appear until November 2015.
The report does not say when the GN plans to release its promised Nunavut Crime Prevention Strategy.