On July 24th, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) releases the report Police-Reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2011. This is an annual report that highlights police-reported crime statistics, including the Crime Severity Index and Crime Rates, at the national, provincial and Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) level. This document provides additional context to some terms utilized in the CCJS report, with a focus on the challenges inherent to comparing crime statistics.
CCJS only utilizes police-reported crime for its report.
Police-reported crime includes:
- incidents that a complainant (usually a victim or witness) chooses to report to police, or
- incidents handled by other agencies (e.g., Probation, insurance providers) for which there are established procedures for sharing this information with police, or
- incidents that were originally detected by police, often through enforcement initiatives (e.g., traffic offences, drug offences, prostitution, or breach of conditions).
Furthermore, a reported incident would only be classified as a police-reported crime if police determine that it is in fact an offence that is a violation of the Criminal Code of Canada. Reported incidents that are not offences or are deemed violations of municipal bylaws or provincial legislation instead of Criminal Code offences are not crimes.
Therefore, variables such as the public’s willingness to report to police, the existence of information sharing procedures between agencies, police enforcement initiatives, and police recording practices can have substantial effects on police-reported crime statistics.
A CMA refers to an urban core and its surrounding area (based on commuting patterns) with:
- a total population of 100,000 or more,
- and at least 50,000 people residing within the urban core itself.
Some CMAs have populations that reside primarily within the urban core while other CMAs have populations that are more dispersed among a number of surrounding communities. In 2011, 92% of the Regina CMA’s population resided within the city of Regina while only 23% of the Victoria CMA’s population resided within the city of Victoria.
CMAs also tend to cover more than one police jurisdiction. The Regina CMA is policed by the Regina Police Service within the city limits and by two RCMP detachments for the surrounding area. The Toronto CMA, in comparison, is policed by several agencies, including three of the largest municipal police services in Canada (Toronto Police Service, Peel Regional Police, and York Regional Police).
Comparing the crime levels of CMAs is not straightforward due to these vast differences in population distribution and police jurisdictions. CCJS also provides police services with access to police-reported crime statistics for every police service in Canada, for every crime type, going back to 1971. The Regina Police Service utilizes this more specific and pertinent data for planning purposes, rather than the CMA-level total crime statistics, when comparing ourselves with other police services or determining best practices.
The Crime Rate is a statistic used for comparing the volume of crime between regions with different population sizes. It is a measure of the number of crimes per 100,000 population within a given period of time. Crime types that are largely driven by enforcement initiatives, such as drug and traffic offences, are not included in the calculation of the Crime Rate. A weakness of the Crime Rate is that all crime types are equal in the calculation: a Homicide would have no greater effect on the Crime Rate than a single Theft.
CRIME SEVERITY INDEX
The Crime Severity Index, introduced in 2009, is used for comparing both the volume and seriousness of crime between regions with different population sizes. Unlike the Crime Rate, the Crime Severity Index accounts for the seriousness of crime by assigning crime types “weights” based on conviction rates and lengths of sentences – a Homicide would therefore have a much greater effect on the Crime Severity Index than a single Theft. High-volume, low-severity crime types can still have a substantial impact on the Crime Severity Index, but not to the same degree as with the Crime Rate.
The Crime Severity Index is comprised of two categories: the Violent Crime Severity Index and the Non-violent Crime Severity Index. The Violent category includes crime types such as violations causing death, assaults, robberies, and sexual assaults. The Non-violent category includes property crimes, such as break and enters and thefts, as well as other Criminal Code offences, such as traffic and administration of justice statistics. Differences in police procedures that can have an effect on police-reported crime are more common in the Non-violent category, particularly for crime types that also involve external agencies such as insurance providers (Fail to Stop or Remain) or the Court system (Fail to Appear in Courts).