Fear of crime is real and it affects people's quality of life. The John Howard Society believes, however, that the series of legislative initiatives enacted recently in reaction to fear of crime have not proven to be beneficial. Fear has not been reduced and people do not feel safer.
As long as fear persists, the public will continue to call for more of the same harsh measures. The John Howard argues that it is time we took a second look at the limited safety provided by the correctional changes we have implemented. It is time that politicians and leaders stop merely reacting to fear by proposing simplistic, short-term solutions to the complex problems of crime. Years of research have shown that the correctional practices we now have in place are not effective in creating safe communities and simply delay the problem, thereby not reducing fear in the long-term.
The public looks to others for help in reducing the fear of crime, but the people the public looks to for guidance cannot always be of help. When the public sees that the police, the government and the law are unable to assist them with their concerns, individuals will often take charge of the situation for themselves. This type of mentality can lead to vigilantism.
We suggest that a number of broad strategies be put in place to address both crime and fear of crime:
1) Educate the public about crime, crime prevention and what works in corrections. There are steps that can be taken to protect oneself and to reduce personal fear, but people need to have a better understanding of their risk and what measures do increase public safety.
2) Involve communities in both crime prevention through social development and in community-based justice programs such as Youth Justice Committees, supervision of youth doing Community Service Order work, and programs operated by agencies like Elizabeth Fry Society and John Howard Society. Direct citizen involvement in justice leads to a better informed citizenry, who then are more understanding of what impacts crime and how to change it.
3) Rather than establishing harsher legislative changes, the following correctional legislation recently enacted should be reversed, and alternatives should be enacted: