The Singapore solution
By DR. GIFFORD JONES, TORONTO SUN
This week I'm mad as hell. My 102 year old aunt-in-law, a Yankee of independent spirit, lives alone in her own house and has been robbed. The scoundrel stole $200 from her petty cash box and then grabbed her bottle of Irish Cream Sherry as well.
Now she's anxious, has to lock her door, making it harder for friends and neighbours to drop by and check on her.
Recently another elderly Vancouver woman was robbed and injured, in a similar way.
She cried, "He's a low down beast and he needs the lash."
Her advice reminded me of a visit to Singapore several years ago. I went to Singapore tired of hearing from bleeding hearts that punishment does not deter crime.
Before landing in Singapore I was handed a card in the airplane that read, "Welcome to Singapore." Printed below in bright red letters was the warning "Death for drug traffickers under Singapore law." No "if-ands-or-buts" about this welcome.
I then spent several days researching Singapore's laws and its crime rate.
In the 1970s Singapore had a serious problem. The use of heroin was spreading to young people.
Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew decided to nip the trend in the bud.
He introduced the death penalty for major drug traffickers and some offences were also punishable by "caning."
FLOODED WITH POLICE
The government realized that nothing would work if drugs were easily available. So black market areas of drug abuse were flooded with police 24 hours a day for up to nine months (cities in Canada take note).
Addicts were sent to treatment centres, major drug dealers were hung and small pushers imprisoned.
Criminals quickly realized that not only were these new laws harsh, but also police intended to carry them out. Moreover, caning made a distinct impression on their backsides and their heads.
Many in North America consider this type of punishment brutal, a return to the dark ages. But officials told me that only 5% of criminals became repeat offenders after meeting the cane (officials and do-gooders take note).
Singapore also has strict gun control laws. Anyone who possesses a firearm to commit a crime is liable to life imprisonment.
As a result there are few bank robberies in Singapore (there were 146 in Toronto in 2004).
I can already hear readers complaining that my job is to write about medicine, not crime. But anxiety and depression come in a variety of packages. And my wife's elderly aunt now lives with anxiety that is just as real as patients worrying about a stomach ulcer.
Singapore officials stated that North Americans have become "irresponsibly permissive." How true!
And this attitude starts early. Consider how we allow students, hardly out of diapers, to rule the classroom, insisting they have their "rights," but ignoring any responsibility (school boards take note).
This namby-pamby permissiveness results in drug trafficking, addiction and finally murder when punishment is soft, delayed or even nil.
Idiocy today knows no bounds. One of my patients who works in a Toronto hostel for women told me that hundreds of dollars in government welfare cheques arrive there each month.
But as soon as the money arrives many of these women are out on the street using it to buy crack cocaine! And it's these women who often give birth to brain damaged children that are disabled for life.
Bernard Shaw was right when he wrote, "When extraterrestrial beings land on earth they will instantly declare it a lunatic asylum."
So my congratulations to 89-year old Mary Campbell in Vancouver.
But it shouldn't be left to a senior citizen to suggest caning is what her attacker needs, if he's ever caught, not more social workers to tend his psyche or a comfortable jail cell. I believe my wife's 102-year old aunt would also favour a good thrashing.
After all, it's annoying enough to lose your pocket money. But when an evil villain has the audacity to abscond with your Bailey's Irish Cream Sherry he should hang by the thumbs in the city square.