It’s not always just individuals who are affected by a crime. Sometimes the community as a whole also suffers consequences.
These can be financial in nature, or a blow dealt to the collective psyche.
Up until now, these impacts have only nebulously been considered in court cases. But British Columbia communities will soon be changing that.
The B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General announced last week that communities will now be allowed to submit impact statements, much like victims can now make statements to the court before sentencing.
The judge will be able to weigh these statements in his sentence.
Statements will “describe the emotional, physical, and financial impacts of an offence on a community,” reads a statement from the province.
They can include “local or regional economic impacts, the emotional toll on the community members that resulted from hearing about and responding to the offence, and details of how the offence has limited or curtailed community members’ access to a particular facility or service.”
Community impact statements can be made by a local organization, civic government, religious organization or First Nations community.
It’s a move of which we approve.
We think these can be particularly effective in cases involving things like vandalism, arson, fraud and embezzlement.
One can see them even coming into play in certain cases of assault, including sexual assault, or drug dealing.
While they are considered less serious (and rightly so), all too often in cases of vandalism against public buildings or businesses, the perpetrators seem to treat it like a victimless crime.
Yet even something as relatively minor as repeated tagging can have serious financial impacts on a community, from the cost of clean-up to the impact it makes on things like tourism, where the image of a community is so vital to success.
We are reminded of the cases of theft from the Clements Centre in Duncan, which does so much great work for people with disabilities in the Cowichan Valley. These kinds of crimes deal a blow to people’s ability to access programs on which they depend.
Then there are times when things like assaults make people collectively afraid to go to certain areas at certain times of day, tainting the sense of public safety.
The larger community is also a victim, and now they have a say.