Crime rate hits 30-year low in 2007
TheStar.com – Canada – Crime rate hits 30-year low in 2007
April 21, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA – New statistics suggest serious criminal offences were on the decline well before the federal Conservative government launched its anti-crime campaign in Parliament.
The figures, reported by Statistics Canada on Tuesday, indicate police-reported crime was less serious overall in 2007, the year after the Tories took office, than it was a decade earlier. The agency says the crime rate had also dropped, but to a lesser degree.
The agency’s new Police-reported Crime Severity Index tracks changes in the severity of reported crimes by assigning each offence a weight, with more serious crimes such as robberies and break-ins given higher rankings.
Traditional statistics have looked at the numbers of crimes, rather than rating their seriousness.
The report says the index – billed as the first of its kind anywhere – suggests crime severity fell by about 20 per cent during the decade, driven by a 40 per cent drop in break-ins.
The Tories under Prime Minister Stephen Harper have campaigned on promises to get tough on crime and have introduced a number of bills in Parliament to address what they characterize as a growing problem.
Harper has been ramping up his tough-on-crime message recently and opposition parties are, for the most part, going along with the Conservative agenda as public opinion polls suggest Canadians support the measures.
All parties have agreed to expedite anti-gang legislation and they all support a recent bill to eliminate the so-called two-for-one practice, whereby judges often give offenders double credit for time served in pre-trial custody.
Fifty-seven per cent of respondents to a recent poll by The Canadian Press Harris-Decima believed crime is increasing, despite statistics to the contrary.
Only 10 per cent said the crime rate has decreased over the last couple of years, as is actually the case. Thirty per cent said they believe it has remained relatively stable.
Statistics Canada has reported that the national crime rate dipped to its lowest level in 30 years in 2007, the most recent year for which data are available.
Statistics Canada says the seriousness of police-reported crime fell in every year but one during the decade leading up to the 2006 election of the Conservative minority government, through 2007. Violent crime – a cornerstone of the Tory agenda – stayed relatively stable during the decade, the agency reported.
There were fluctuations, however.
For example, the agency reports the violent crime severity index rose by four per cent that between 2004 and 2006. There were increases in many serious violent crimes during this period, including attempted murder and aggravated assault, the most serious form of assault.
The agency says these increases were not picked up in the violent crime rate, due to a decline in minor assaults, the highest-volume violent crime.
Crime severity fell in every province during the 10-year period, with the largest declines in Ontario and Quebec.
Police-reported crime rates have generally been higher in the West and North than in eastern and central regions of the country, StatsCan reports, and this is also true for crime severity. Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia had crime severity index values well above the other provinces in 2007.
Ontario and Quebec have had the lowest police-reported crime rates in recent years, but Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick had the lowest values of seriousness.
Among cities, overall crime severity was highest in Regina in 2007, at about twice the national average, although it has been declining in recent years. It was followed by Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
Crime was less serious overall in Toronto in 2007 than in either Montreal or Vancouver, the report says. In fact, it was well below the national average and the lowest of 27 surveyed cities.
Vancouver’s index was well above the national average and sixth highest of all metropolitan areas.