Tomorrow, July 20, 2016, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics will release its annual comparison of police-reported crime statistics for 2015. This report compares police reported crime, for 2015, across Canada’s 33 Census Metropolitan Areas, taking a look at both total incidents of crime and an index that takes into consideration the severity of crimes committed.
Residents are encouraged to prepare for the release of the CCJS report by reading the information below, which gives some further explanation to the terms used in the CCJS report and explores challenges in collecting and comparing crime statistics. For example:
– Why call it “police-reported crime”? What does it include; what does it not include?
– What’s a CMA or Census Metropolitan Area? Are CMA boundaries the same as city limits?
– What’s the difference between “Crime Rate” and “Crime Severity Index”?
– What are some of the challenges in comparing crime statistics from one CMA to another?
Police-reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2015
On July 20, 2016 the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) will release the report “Police-Reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2015”. The following information provides additional clarity to some terms utilized in the 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 (such as the Courts or Probation Services) for which there are established procedures for sharing that information with police, or
– incidents that were originally detected by police, often through enforcement initiatives.
Therefore, variables such as the public’s willingness to report to police, the existence of information sharing procedures between agencies, police enforcement strategies and recording practices can have substantial effects on crime statistics.
CENSUS METROPOLITAN AREA (CMA)
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.
CMAs typically cover more than one police jurisdiction. The Regina CMA is policed by the Regina Police Service (RPS) within the city limits and by two RCMP detachments for the largely rural surrounding area. The Toronto CMA, in comparison, includes three of the largest municipal police services in Canada.
Comparing the crime statistics of CMAs is not straightforward due to these vast differences in population distribution and police jurisdictions. Statistics Canada also provides police-reported crime statistics for every police service in Canada on its website. The RPS tends to utilize this more specific and pertinent data when making comparisons.
The Crime Rate is a measure of the number of crimes per 100,000 population. Controlling for population enables comparisons of crime counts over time and between regions.
CRIME SEVERITY INDEX (CSI)
Unlike the Crime Rate, the CSI also accounts for the seriousness of crime by “weighting” crime types based on conviction rates and lengths of sentences – a Homicide therefore has a much greater effect on the CSI than a single Theft. However, high-volume, low-severity crime types can still have a substantial impact on the CSI, just not to the same degree as with the Crime Rate.