Canadian crime rates are NOT increasing – ROGER SAUVÉ – Life Trends – Facts And Figures That Matter to You

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 ( Roger is an economist and demographer and lives in Summerstown.


  1. I do not disagree with the numbers, however I offer another slant.
    The number of people NOT reporting crime, of which sexual assualt is highest, has been estimated to be increasing. Some of the violent crimes from just a few years ago have been relabled as well. Judging by the Police blotters, decreasing is not a word I would use.

    And if you do not think governments change things around for their own benefit, ask MPP Madelin Meiur why she changed the language on reporting bilingualism… if it was not to increase the numbers.

  2. You don’t suppose the gun registry has anything to do with the lack of increase in crime do you?

  3. @Reg

    Does registering your car stop you from speeding?? Comparing the Long Gun registry to the registration of vehicles is a very poor analogy. If your dog license lapses should the by-law enforcement officers be able to confiscate your pet for immediate destruction?

    Don’t confuse LICENSING with the registration of OBJECTS.

  4. I agree with Roger. I talked to some petty criminals and I talked to some medium class criminals. Both groups told me the same thing. They are aware of the increased amount of security cameras and the role of the computer chip and radio tracking devices. The sense of getting caught is high. The ‘pre-meditative smash and grab artist’ and the ‘peel the roof off to get to the safe artist’ are backing off because they think the odds are higher than it use to be in getting caught. I would imagine that the rate of crimes of passion remain about the same.

  5. Any idea Rocket Roy what these petty criminals are doing instead? You enjoy the adrenalin rush or quick money and are not just going to start working in a flower shop because ATM’s and office’s have cameras.

    Other changes have affected rates as well. The young offenders act was changed in 2003 allowing for more kids to do alternatives to being charged, thus reducing numbers of charged.

    I would imagine Police are charging less as well because of stringent paperwork and court requirements. Judges being soft could be another topic.

  6. Yes, the statistics point out clearly that crime rates are not increasing, as Roger points out. I find the interesting thing about this information is that Conservatives like Guy Lauzon are constantly talking about getting tough on crime! Can’t Mr. Lauzon read the statistics like the rest of us? Why are the Conservatives so interesting in fear mongering and building new super prisons if the prison population is either stable or declining?

    I believe that “getting tough on crime” is code in the Conservative party for outsourcing the business of prisons like they have done in the United States, and letting private enterprise take over. This way the government is able to establish a powerful corporate ally, and when elections roll around, the big boys will be making sizeable political contributions.

    And the Conservatives will have no problem filling the new prisons either. Make a few changes to the laws, start putting people in jail for minor offences(like the U.S) and the Conservatives start looking more like the Reform Party, which are their original roots anyway.

    Heaven help us if the Conservatives get a majority in the next election.

  7. Although reports of crime are decreasing, the Conservatives insist that unreported crime is increasing, and by extrapolation, one must suppose that imaginary crime is right off the scale.

    I’ll be kind and just say that given their logic, the Tories are going to be hard pressed to make a case for more prisons.

    But while they’re down on this one, the Tories are most certainlynot out, and can still be counted on to make a case at least for more prisoners. But how to deal with a shortage of space?

    Easy, proposed changes to the the law and young offenders will deal with that …Smaller prisoners.

  8. Kevin, I have only heard fear mongering (super prisons, outsourcing, like the US) about contracting out. but really, have you seen any numbers for government employees? How can the salary / benefit / pension continue to be paid with fewer people working? A big time discussion needs to be done on staffing and programs while we can still afford the study.

    And really, putting people in prisons for minor offences! Two years less a day may atually put corrections into a better context for some of these career criminals, or scare a couple of them. Judges will not be turning into patch over one eye pirates over night.

    We have already had changes to young offenders, is it working?

  9. I too am deeply suspicious of official stats. Unemployment, inflation, GDP have all been tampered with. Too bad there isn’t a in this area. OTOH, falling birthrate, the aging of our society and the abolition of residential schools and general prosperity and social support probably explains a lot of the decrease. Expect crime to increase as the economy falters in the US (dragging us down too) and gummerments are overwhelmed by their obscene debts which will squeeze all their safety nets.

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