Summerstown ON – Crime rates are not increasing in Canada? The overall crime rate is either declining sharply or, at worse, is flat relative to the early 1990s.
According to some media reports and some politicians, one often gets the impression that crime is increasing rapidly in this country. This is not so.
There are only two major public reports that estimate the overall crime rate in Canada. Both are tabulated by Statistics Canada. Police provide their actual records of crimes reported and handled by them to Statistics Canada. The annual report produced from this data enables us to track changes from year to year. The other source is a sample survey of households conducted every five years or so. Both measurements are now available for 2009 and cover most of the last two decades.
The hard police numbers first. Police reported crime rates peaked in the early 1990s and have fallen every year, except one, since then. According to this measure, the crime rate declined from 10% in 1991 to 6% in 2009.
As such, the overall crime rate, as reported by the police themselves, has dropped by almost 40% over the last two decades or so. It has certainly not gone up.
The Statistics Canada household sample survey asks respondent, via a telephone call, if he or she has been a victim of crime in the last 12 months. In 1993, about 23% of respondents indicated that they were victims of crime. In 2009, an almost identical 24% of respondents indicated that they were victims of crime in the previous 12 months. According to Statistics Canada, the small change is statistically insignificant.
As such, household surveys suggest that the overall crime rate has remained relatively stable over the last two decades. It has certainly not gone up.
What are we to conclude? Have crime rates been on a sharp downward trend or a flat trend over the last few decades? We can certainly rule out an upward trend.
Let’s see how the people feel about?
According to the same Statistics Canada household survey, about 93% of Canadians felt somewhat or very satisfied about their personal safety from crime in 2009. This is a slight deterioration from the 94% who felt this way in 2004 but it is a major improvement from the 86% who felt this way in 1993. The small decline from 2004 is statistically insignificant while the improvement from 1993 is highly significant.
It seems that Canadians feel safer than before. Most of the improvement came in the 1990s and the early 2000s.
The one clear conclusion is that the overall crime rate has not worsened over the last two decades.
Let’s continue to fight crime but let’s do it based on facts.
Roger Sauvé is President of People Patterns Consulting (www.peoplepatternsconsulting.com). Roger is an economist and demographer and lives in Summerstown.