Letters to the Editor

Letter: Connection made to population growth

To the editor:

Noted economist and philosopher Kenneth Boulding postulated a set of theorems on population growth, the first of which is this: “If the only ultimate check on population is misery, then the population will grow until it is miserable enough to stop its growth.”

Having read Sam Cooper’s now (in)famous article: Kelowna’s Image Tarnished, in The Province (Feb. 23, 2013) in which he dealt the city a well-deserved black eye, I’m wondering if the residents of Kelowna are finally miserable enough to act?

Cooper’s article suggested that there may be some link between the latest gang-related killings in the Kelowna area and population growth.

While some would deny that there is a causal association between population growth and crime, social scientist Mitchell B. Cohen in The Western Criminology Review (May 2004) states that “population size is, by far and away, the single best predictor of the level of violent and property crime.”

There is a three-fold dynamic by which this occurs: 1) growth in population results in greater social interaction, some of which may result in criminal activity; 2) urbanization and population growth weaken informal mechanisms of social control which, in turn, result in more crime and delinquency; and 3) the concentration of relatively large numbers of individuals fosters the creation and expansion of deviant subcultures.

Some have also suggested that population growth isn’t so much the problem as it is the way that growth is distributed throughout the community with low densities or sprawl, as it is disparagingly called, being the culprit.

However, researcher Keith Harris in the article An Analysis of the Influence of Population Density (International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, July 2006) stated: “By and large, the available evidence increasingly tends to suggest that most types of crime tend to increase in levels of occurrence with increasing population density.”

But perhaps most interesting is the relationship between urban density and, specifically, gang-related homicides.

David C. Pyrooz in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency (Nov. 2012) writes that “densely populated neighbourhoods and cities are conducive to the processes of gang violence” and that “densely populated cities experience higher rates of gang homicide than sparsely populated cities.”

Apparently then, densification, “smart growth” or growing “up, not out” will not make Kelowna safer, as some suggest, but will only make crime problems worse.

The only viable solution to Kelowna’s crime problem, then, is to curtail growth. But as Kelowna’s mayor and council are all supporters of unfettered growth, the first step must be to remove them all from office and replace them with people who put community before profits.

Are the residents of Kelowna miserable enough yet to do that or will you wait until you become even more miserable?

John Zeger,

Carlsbad, California.


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