Know The Signs
KNOWING THE SIGNS CAN REDUCE CRIME
Today, crime and drugs are closely related. It is impossible to dissociate the increase of crime and violence rates and the growth of drug abuse, especially in some areas where these scourges are becoming unbearable. The current society’s degradation is obvious when we read studies like “The Relationship between Crime and Drugs”, which says that “alcohol and other drugs have a multiplying effect on crime. A perfect and simple example is the association between crime and the availability of malt liquors”, (Journal of Psychoactive Drugs). In this scenario, United States of America is, definitely, one of the countries with the worst statistics. But, not even Canada, a country which has been making a great strides in preventing the escalade of drug consumption in the last years, is no longer safe from an ever growing number of users in possession of illicit drugs. For example, in 2011, more than 54% of drug-related offenses were cannabis possession. Yet, the rate of trafficking declined 11% for the same year. This clearly indicates an upsurge in the number of users in Canada.
That is why Crime Stoppers of Northwestern Ontario and Northern Minnesota fight against these two epidemics by informing people and disclosing the signs, both of drug abuse and of the many types of crime. The numbers prove it. According to “Substance Abuse and Treatment: State and Federal Prisoners, 1997”, 60 percent to 80 percent of all crimes are related to drug abuse (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999). Also, in the United States of America, “there is a high prevalence of drug problems among offenders. In the 1997 Department of Justice survey of inmates in state and federal prisons, it was estimated that 69 percent of state prisoners were drug or alcohol-involved, and 56 percent reported using illicit drugs in the month prior to the offense” (National Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies). So, this is not an unfortunate coincidence.
Let’s take a look at the case of International Falls, a small city right on the border of Minnesota with Ontario. This city with only 6,376 inhabitants has one of the biggest crime rates of the state. With an average 14 violent crimes and 203 property crimes per year, the area has a relatively high number of cases when comparing it to the state data (Neighborhood Scout). The situation in International Falls is just an example of what happens in all the Northern Minnesota, where crimes related to gangs, for instance, are spreading thanks to drug traffic, especially in the cases of marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
Moreover, crimes against the elderly, identity theft and drunk driving keep growing, both in Northern Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “over eight million Americans become victims of identity theft each year, resulting in billions of dollars in losses’ (Protect Yourself from Identity Theft). And Canada is not an exception, mainly because of Northwestern Ontario situation, one of the regions with the higher rates of crime and drug abuse in the country.
In the last years, the area contributed to the latest Canadian statistics with the increase of homicide rate, the growth of child sexual abuse and elderly negligence or the upsurge of drug possession and consumption (Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2011). The city of Thunder Bay, for example, only stopped being the murder capital of the country in 2011 (Thunder Bay Source, 2011).
Looking at Northwestern Ontario, one of the most concerning problems is the abuse of drugs and alcohol, especially among students and young people: alcohol is the number one addictive substance consumed by local students. As stated by a report, more than 66 percent of local students were drinking alcohol in 2005. Compared with the national average, “Northwestern Ontario students reported higher alcohol use (66.7% vs. 62%), cannabis use (31.7% vs. 26.5%), LSD use (4.1% vs. 1.7%) and other hallucinogen use (11.7% vs. 6.7%). This continues a historical trend of higher use rates of these substances in the north compared to the rest of the province” (Student Drug Use in Northwestern Ontario, 2005).
So, what can we do to prevent these behaviors and keep the population safe? The best way is giving information about the signs that can be identified to prevent risk situations.
- Gang and street crimes
The first step to keep yourself safe and maybe alert authorities to dangerous neighborhoods or streets is to avoid the places you know are unsafe. Streets full of graffiti are, usually, locals where gangs like to hang out or develop their businesses, mainly related to drug traffic.
- Property crimes
Making your city safer is a task that can begin in your street. Try to keep an eye on your neighborhood and register unusual movements like a strange van that keeps driving through your street or someone that is permanently wandering near your house without apparent reason. Also, if you know your neighbors are leaving for vacation, watch their house and ask them to do the same for you.
- Crimes on elderly
Crimes against the elderly are a true problem that keeps growing. According to information from 40 north-American states, “the most frequently occurring substantiated allegation of maltreatment involved self-neglect (41.9%), followed by physical abuse (20.1%) and caregiver neglect/ abandonment (13.2%), for a total 169,946 multiple, substantiated allegations of maltreatment” (A Response to the Abuse of Vulnerable Adults, 2000). Watch the signs and try to protect the elderly near you and denounce any grounded suspicion you have. If your elderly neighbor is showing signs of abuse or you’re noticing someone keeps going into his mailbox, check to be sure everything is fine.
- Drunk driving
This is the type of crime that starts with fun and, sometimes, ends in tragedy. Drunk driving is not a joke and we need to be careful and watch the signs. It’s troubling to read that “Northwestern Ontario students report significantly higher and more dangerous levels of drinking than the rest of Ontario students’ and an extremely high probability of drunk driving (Student Drug Use in Northwestern Ontario, 2005). So, if you’re going out and you see anyone about to drive after drinking, try to help him or warn the police. Eventually, you might save one or more lives.
These are just some of the tips that Crime Stoppers of Northwestern Ontario and Northern Minnesota offers to help you, the citizens living in the area, recognize the signs of drug related crimes. But, the main thing you need to know is that information and prevention are the only tools that can stop a crime before it happens. Knowing the signs is the first step to reduce crime rates and drug related problems, especially in troubled areas like Northwestern Ontario and Northern Minnesota. So, keep an eye on your neighborhood. Street by street, house by house, family by family -we can make our world a safer place.