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The Daily

Wednesday, July 18, 2007
2006 (correction)

Canada's overall national crime rate, based on incidents reported to police, hit its lowest point in over 25 years in 2006, driven by a decline in non-violent crime.

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The crime rate dropped by 3%, mainly due to declines in break-ins, thefts under $5,000 and counterfeiting. The national crime rate has decreased by about 30% since peaking in 1991.

The rate fell in every province and territory, with the largest drops reported in Prince Edward Island, Alberta, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Note to readers

In Canada, there are two primary sources of statistical information on crime: police-reported surveys and victimization surveys completed by Canadians from randomly selected households. This report is based on police-reported data released today in an annual Juristat by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS).

Data on incidents that come to the attention of the police are captured and forwarded to the CCJS via the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) survey according to a nationally-approved set of common scoring rules, categories and definitions. UCR data are available back to 1962 for the nation, provinces and territories, and to 1991 at the census metropolitan area (CMA) level (homicide data are available back to 1981 at the CMA level).

The most recent victimization survey data from the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) were released in November 2005. According to the 2004 GSS, 28% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported being victimized one or more times in the 12 months preceding the survey, up slightly from 26% in 1999 when the survey was last conducted.

The total violent crime rate remained virtually unchanged from 2005, mainly due to the stability in the rate of minor assaults, which account for 6 in 10 violent crimes.

The national homicide rate fell 10%, halting two years of increases. However, increases were reported in many serious violent crimes such as attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, robbery and kidnapping/forcible confinement.

The property crime rate dropped 4% from 2005, as the rate of break-ins fell 5% to its lowest level in over 30 years. The rate of motor vehicle theft also declined, down 2%.

The crime rate among young persons aged 12 to 17 rose 3% in 2006, the first increase since 2003. The rise was driven by increases in mischief and disturbing the peace. The rate of young people accused of homicide was the highest since 1961, when data were first collected.

Crime rates down in all provinces and territories

The overall crime rate fell in every province and territory in 2006. Among the provinces, the largest drop was reported in Prince Edward Island (-11%), followed by declines of about 5% in Alberta, New Brunswick and British Columbia.

Despite a 4% drop in overall crime, Saskatchewan reported the highest rate among the provinces for the ninth year in a row, followed by Manitoba and British Columbia. Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest rates, continuing the pattern observed since 1999.

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In terms of violent crime, rates declined or remained stable in all provinces, except for slight increases in Quebec and Saskatchewan. Similarly, property crime rates declined or remained unchanged in all provinces and territories. The largest drop in property crime rates was in Saskatchewan, down 13%.

Among Canada's census metropolitan areas (CMAs), the largest declines in overall crime occurred in the West: Saskatoon (-9%), Abbotsford (-8%) and Regina (-8%). The drop in Regina resulted in the lowest crime rate in that city since 1991, when CMA data were first tabulated. Even so, Regina, Saskatoon and Abbotsford recorded the highest overall crime rates, in that order.

The largest increases were reported in London (+9%), followed by Sudbury (+8%) and Saguenay (+8%). Despite the increase, Saguenay still reported the lowest crime rate.

Homicide rate drops

Police reported 605 homicides in 2006, 58 fewer than in 2005. This resulted in a rate of 1.85 homicides per 100,000 population, 10% lower than in 2005. The national homicide rate has generally been declining since the mid-1970s, when it was around 3.0.

Virtually all provinces and territories reported declines in their homicide rate in 2006. The most notable occurred in Ontario, where there were 23 fewer homicides.

The highest homicide rates were found again in the Western provinces. Saskatchewan, which had 40 homicides, reported the highest rate (4.1 per 100,000 population) among the provinces.

The lowest provincial homicide rates were in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Quebec. The rate in Quebec (1.2 per 100,000 population) was the lowest in that province in 40 years.

Among all 27 CMAs, the highest homicide rates were reported in Regina, where the rate was 4.5 homicides per 100,000 population, Edmonton (3.7) and Saskatoon (3.3).

Bucking the national trend, the Ottawa–Gatineau area reported an unusually high number of homicides. The rate in Gatineau (3.1) was the highest in almost 20 years, and Ottawa's rate (1.8), while similar to the national average, was the highest in over a decade.

Increases seen in many serious violent crimes

While overall violent crime remained stable, most serious violent crimes were on the rise, a situation similar to 2005. Police reported 852 attempted murders, 30 more than in 2005 and the second consecutive annual increase.

The number of aggravated assaults, the most serious form of assault, also increased for the second year in a row, rising 5%. Assaults with a weapon/causing bodily harm continued its upward trend, rising 4%. This resulted in the highest rate for this offence since it was introduced into the Criminal Code in 1983.

Police reported about 30,000 robberies in 2006, pushing the rate up 6%. This is the second consecutive annual increase in the rate of robberies.

About 1 in every 8 robberies involved a firearm. Robberies involving a firearm increased 4% in 2006, although they are still well below their peak in 1991.

Property crime: Declines reported in break-ins and motor vehicle thefts

The rate of break-ins in Canada dropped to its lowest level in over 30 years. Since peaking in 1991, the rate has fallen 50%, including a 5% drop in 2006. Police reported roughly 250,000 break-ins last year, almost 6 in 10 of which involved residences.

Motorists reported about 160,000 stolen vehicles in 2006. During the past decade, the rate of vehicle thefts has declined 20%, including a 2% decrease last year alone.

The picture for vehicle theft varied considerably across the country. Manitoba's vehicle theft rate continued to be well above that of the rest of Canada, rising by a further 14% in 2006. The rate in Alberta also increased sharply, up 13%.

However, large declines were reported in Prince Edward Island (-28%) and British Columbia (-16%). The drop in British Columbia has been attributed to many factors, including targeting repeat offenders, increased use of anti-theft devices and the implementation of police "bait car" programs.

The rate of counterfeiting currency fell 29% in 2006 on the heels of a 19% decline in 2005, after increasing five-fold between 2001 and 2004.

Youth crime increases for the first time since 2003

The youth crime rate includes all young persons aged 12 to 17 accused of committing a crime, whether they were formally charged by police or dealt with by other means such as a warning, caution, or referral to a diversionary program.

The youth crime rate increased 3% in 2006, the first increase since 2003. Violent crime among youth rose 3%, while property crime dropped 3%. "Other" Criminal Code offences, such as mischief and disturbing the peace, were up 9%.

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All provinces reported increases in their youth crime rate except Quebec, where it fell 4%.

Although more youth came into contact with the police in 2006, fewer were formally charged. The rate of young people charged dropped by 1%, while the rate cleared by other means rose 6%. About 74,000 youth were charged with a criminal offence in 2006, and a further 104,000 were cleared by other means.

Since the introduction the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) in 2003, the proportion of youth formally charged by police has dropped from 56% in 2002, pre-YCJA, to 42% in 2006.

In 2006, 84 youths were accused of homicide, involving 54 victims. The 2006 rate of youths accused of homicide was the highest since 1961, when data were first collected. Manitoba reported the highest rates of youths accused of homicide, followed by Alberta.

Drug crimes: Cocaine incidents on the rise

Total drug crimes increased by 2% in 2006. Cannabis offences continued to account for about 60% of all drug offences, and these were down 4%.

In 2006, possession offences accounted for about three-quarters of all cannabis offences.

At the same time, cocaine offences were up 13% and other drug offences, including crystal meth, rose 8%. Cocaine offences have increased by 67% since 2002.

Available on CANSIM: tables 252-0013 and 252-0014.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3302.

The Juristat: "Crime Statistics in Canada", 2006, Vol. 27, no. 5, (85-002-XIE, free) is now available online from our website. From the Publications module, under Free Internet publications, choose Crime and justice, then Juristat. A paper version (85-002-XPE, $11/$100) is also available.

To acquire provincial/territorial crime statistics profiles, obtain further information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-800-387-2231; 613-951-9023), Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

Tables. Table(s).