Sunday, August 1, 2010

Digging deeper into crime stats: Goldstein Last year’s violent crime rate 316% higher than 1962

Lorrie Goldstein, Toronto Sun

Thanks to some new numbers provided to me by Statistics Canada, I can now report fully on Canada’s crime rate in 2009, much of which I had to estimate or omit in last week’s column on this issue.
Basically, the new statistics bolster the argument I made last week.
That is, while crime rates in Canada are today falling slightly on a year-over-year basis and are down from their historic highs of the early 1990s, they remain alarmingly and stubbornly high compared to the early 1960s, when comparable crime stats first started being kept.
I can now tell you there were 920 violent crimes reported to police per 100,000 population in Canada in 2009.
The good news is that’s a slight drop from the 936 violent crimes reported per 100,000 in 2008.
The bad news is it means our violent crime rate remains more than 300% higher than what it was when comparable statistics first started being kept in 1962.
At that time, our violent crime rate was 221 incidents per 100,000 of population.
That means last year’s violent crime rate of 920 incidents per 100,000 was 316% higher than in 1962.
A similar pattern can be seen for other forms of crime.
The rate of reported property crime fell slightly in 2009 to 2,966 incidents per 100,000 population from 3,088 in 2008, but remains 56% higher than in 1962, when the rate was 1,891 crimes per 100,000 population.
For what Statistics Canada refers to as “other Criminal Code incidents” — things like counterfeiting, weapons violations, child pornography, prostitution, disturbing the peace — the crime rate dropped slightly in 2009 compared to 2008. There were 2,521 incidents per 100,000 population last year compared to 2,592 in 2008.
But again, the 2009 rate was 282% higher than in 1962, when the rate was 659 reported crimes per 100,000.
Finally, Canada’s overall crime rate, which I reported on last week, dropped slightly from 6,615 incidents per 100,000 people in 2008 to 6,406 last year.
But that’s still 131% higher than in 1962, when the reported crime rate was 2,771 crimes per 100,000 people.
All these figures point to the inescapable reality that while crime rates in Canada (and across North America) are down from their historic highs of the early 1990s and continue to drop slowly on a year-to-year basis, they have never returned to anywhere near the far lower levels of 50 years ago.
Bizarrely, even mentioning this simple, factual observation, drives an unofficial industry in Canada, which I collectively refer to as the “hug-a-thug” crowd, berserk.
You know the type — soft-on-crime journalists, politicians, criminologists, lawyers, prisoners’ rights groups and others who, immediately following the release of Statistics Canada’s annual data on the crime rate, start ranting there’s no need to toughen our criminal justice system or build more prisons because “crime is going down” and anyone who thinks otherwise has been taken in by media sensationalism and “hang ’em high” federal Tory politicians.
Such arguments are, of course, patently absurd.
For one thing, what does a small annual dip in the overall crime rate — 3% last year according to Statistics Canada — have to do with how we design our criminal justice system?
How does it negate the concerns of millions of Canadians that bail is too easy to obtain in our courts and that early parole makes a mockery of sentences that are too lax to begin with?
How does it ease the suffering of crime victims and their families, who have to deal with a justice system that often treats them as an inconvenience and afterthought?
Finally, why should the public feel safe knowing the violent crime rate in Canada last year was 316% higher than it was in 1962?
Because that was down from 323% higher in 2008?
And with that, I’m off on vacation. See you in a couple of weeks.

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