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A Closer Look at Canada’s Crime Rates

Canada has always been viewed as a safe country to live and to visit.  Compared to our neighbours to the south, Canada’s crime rates barely register.  There are two ways to measure police-reported crime: the crime rate and the crime severity index (CSI).  The crime rate is a measurement of offences in violation of the Criminal Code per 100,000 people.  The Crime Severity Index allows analysis of the volume of a specific crime and the seriousness of a crime relative to others, from year to year.

Canada’s crime rate has experienced two decades of decline and in 2013, the police-reported crime rate hit its lowest point since 1969.  In 2015, however, police reported that crime measured by both the crime rate and the CSI increased for the first time since 2003.  This recent increase indicates that the crime rate in Canada merits a closer look.

Comparison to the United States for Murder Statistics

In 2015, the United States reported 15,696 murders.  That is a staggering number of murders, even when you factor in a higher population, American gun control laws, and an extremely active drug market.

While Canada had a higher homicide rate for the year 2015 compared to the previous three years, it still came in well below the United States at 604 homicides.  The population in Canada in 2015 was approximately 35,848,600 people.  While 604 homicides was a high number by Canadian standards, even when population difference is considered, Canada still prevails as the significantly safer country of the two.

Other Crimes

Numerically, murder contributes to just a small portion of the crimes being committed in our country.  Statistics Canada reported that in 2015 there were approximately 1.9 million Criminal Code incidents committed across Canada.  This excludes any reported traffic violations.  The number of 1.9 million, is 70,000 higher than the criminal code violations reported in 2014.  The crimes that increased in 2015 include homicide, attempted murder, major assault, sexual assault, robbery, and violent firearms offences. Police-reported property crimes also increased in 2015, including fraud, possession of stolen property, theft over $5,000, identity fraud, motor vehicle theft, and breaking and entering.

Considering the decreasing crime rate of the past two decades, it is surprising to see the crime rate increase by this rate in Canada.  In considering why Canada has become more criminally active, there may not be one simple answer, but many contributing factors.

The crime rates in Alberta experienced the greatest hike for the 2015 reporting year. The western province had the highest increase in criminal code incidents of all the provinces and territories for 2015, which ultimately aided in the increase in Canadian statistics.

Why did Alberta have a higher crime rate?

In determining why Alberta experienced the highest increase in crime rate nationwide, it is important to explore what types of crime spiked.  Alberta reported an 18% rise in CSI.  Theft under $5000, breaking and entering, and vehicle theft were the greatest contributors to this increase.

This statistic seems less surprising when set against the economic troubles Alberta underwent in 2015.  The Alberta Government reported in early 2016 that the province suffered a net loss of 19,600 jobs in the 2015 calendar year.  This is the highest instance of job loss reported since the early 1980s for Alberta residents.

During a serious recession, it is not unlikely to see an increase in petty crime.

New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories all reported at least a 10% increase in more serious crimes such as homicide, fraud, and assault level 3 (aggravated assault).  The Northwest Territories being the most severe.  These statistics indicate that each province has their own set of challenges to face each year, and that there is room for improvement across the country.

Not all Provinces Are Equal

The breakdown of reported crime in each province varies.  While some provinces experienced an increase in crime, others have seen a decrease.  Prince Edward Island crime rates have been steadily declining over the last few years and 2015 was no different.

To judge an entire country based on the annual national crime statistics is a challenge due to the variety in economic situation from province to provinces, not to mention the unique social frameworks in each locality.

Does the rise in crime rate need to be a concern for Canadians?

Possibly for some.  This depends on what the circumstances surrounding the increase are, such as the serious job loss in Alberta.  In general, the increase in crime rate may not be significant moving forward.  Canada year after year is still an incredibly safe place to call home and the crime reports provide us with a guideline on where our country needs improvement.  The reports of differing offences fueling crime rate increases across the provinces may aid in helping law enforcement target the different circumstances facing geographically specific areas.  Onus can still be placed on the Federal Government to provide funding and support for areas that have suffered serious economic recession.

On the bright side, the rate of youth crime continued to decline in 2015.  Focusing on young offender rehabilitation and youth diversion programs is likely to facilitate this trend.

The first step to dealing with any issue is to understand what the issue is.  The increase in crime statistics throughout Canada are an indication of specific issues that are facing different areas.  With attention and assistance where necessary, much can be done to mitigate the problems at hand.

If you are charged with a criminal offence such as impaired driving, assault, or criminal harassment, contact a Toronto criminal lawyer to understand your legal options and ensure the best results on your matter.

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