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The Daily

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Canada's national crime rate, based on data reported by police, declined for the third consecutive year in 2007, continuing the downward trend in police-reported crime since the rate peaked in 1991.

The 7% drop in the national crime rate was driven mainly by decreases in counterfeiting and high-volume property offences such as theft $5,000 and under, break-ins and motor vehicle thefts.

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Following two years of increases in most serious violent offences, police reported fewer homicides, attempted murders, sexual assaults and robberies in 2007.

Police-reported crime rates were down in all provinces and territories, except Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

After rising in 2006, the overall crime rate among youth aged 12 to 17 declined slightly in 2007. While non-violent offences committed by youth fell, youth violent crime remained stable.

Crime rates continue to be highest in Western Canada and the territories. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan once again reported the highest overall crime rate as well as the highest violent crime rate.

Violent crime: Decline in most serious offences

Police reported 594 homicides, down slightly from 606 in 2006. The homicide rate fell for the second year in a row, continuing a long-term decline that began in the mid-1970s.

In 2007, there were almost 30,000 robberies. While the robbery rate declined 5% from 2006, it has remained relatively stable since 2000. Robbery committed with a firearm declined 12% from the previous year to its lowest point in more than 30 years.

Note to readers

There are two primary sources of statistical information on crime in Canada: police-reported surveys that reflect data on Criminal Code incidents that come to the attention of police, and victimization surveys that collect information on self-reported criminal victimizations.

This report is based on police-reported data.

Data on incidents that come to the attention of the police are captured and forwarded by police services to Statistics Canada 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 at the national, provincial and territorial levels and to 1991 at the census metropolitan area level. In order to enhance comparability among jurisdictions and over time, crime is expressed as a rate per 100,000 population.

One way to estimate the extent of crime that is not reported to police is through victimization surveys. According to the most recent victimization survey data from the 2004 General Social Survey, 34% of criminal incidents were reported to police, down from 37% in 1999. Approximately half of all incidents of break-ins, vehicle thefts and robberies were reported to police, compared with about one-third of thefts and vandalism.

The two most serious forms of assault, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon, remained virtually unchanged in 2007. Prior to 2007, the offence of assault with a weapon had increased in each of the previous seven years, reaching an all-time high in 2006.

Property crime: Decline in break-ins and motor vehicle theft

Police reported just over 230,000 break-ins, of which about 6 in 10 were residential. The rate of residential break-ins fell 9% in 2007 and break-ins to businesses dropped 8%.

The rate of break-ins has been steadily declining since peaking in 1991, reaching its lowest level in over 40 years. According to Statistics Canada's General Social Survey, Canadians increased their use of home security devices, such as burglar alarms and motion detectors, between 1999 and 2004.

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On average, there were about 400 motor vehicle thefts per day in 2007, totalling over 145,000 incidents. The rate of motor vehicle theft has been declining since its peak in 1996, including a 9% drop in 2007.

Research suggests that factors such as anti-theft devices built into newer model vehicles, as well as specialized police enforcement teams have contributed to the decrease.

Youth crime: Slight decline in the youth crime rate

About 176,000 youth aged 12 to 17 were accused of a criminal offence last year. This includes youth who were either 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, which has remained relatively stable over the past decade, declined 1.5% in 2007 following a 3.3% increase in 2006. The 2007 drop was due to a decrease in non-violent crimes.

The youth violent crime rate remained stable in 2007 after increasing steadily over the past two decades. The 2007 rate was more than double the rate reported in the mid-1980s.

The provinces: Crime rates highest in Western Canada

Among the provinces, the highest crime rates were in Western Canada, continuing a pattern observed over the past 30 years.

Despite a 3.5% decline, Saskatchewan continued to report the highest overall crime rate, as well as the highest rate of violent crime. British Columbia had the highest property crime rate, primarily the result of a large number of thefts $5,000 and under.

For the fourth year in a row, the lowest provincial rates occurred in Ontario and Quebec.

Police reported declines in homicide in every province except Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. The homicide rates in British Columbia and Quebec were at their lowest in over 40 years.

Manitoba reported 62 homicides, 23 more than in 2006, giving it the highest rate among the provinces and its highest homicide rate since recording began in 1961. Most of the increase occurred in small urban and rural areas. The province also reported a large increase in attempted murder, up 53%.

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Metropolitan areas: Declines seen in most cities

Crime rates fell in most census metropolitan areas last year, including the nine largest. The biggest declines occurred in Kitchener, Montréal and Winnipeg.

The highest overall crime rates occurred in the western metropolitan centres of Regina, Saskatoon, Abbotsford, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver. Toronto reported the second lowest overall crime rate among all 27 metropolitan areas.

Violent crime rates also tended to be highest in Western Canada. The census metropolitan areas of Saint John, Thunder Bay and Halifax were exceptions to the general pattern, with each reporting violent crime rates similar to or higher than those in the West.

One in five homicides in Canada occurred in Toronto in 2007. However, taking population differences into account, homicide rates were highest in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary.

For the first time since recording began in 1981, Québec reported no homicides, the only metropolitan area to do so in 2007.

Impaired driving and drug offences: Among the few offences to increase in 2007

Impaired driving and drug offences were among the few police-reported crimes to increase in 2007. More so than other crimes, these offences tend to be influenced by local police enforcement practices.

The impaired driving rate rose 3% in 2007, mainly due to a 19% increase in Alberta. Despite this recent increase, impaired driving rates have generally been declining over the past 25 years in Canada.

The rate of drug offences rose 4% last year, driven by an increase in cannabis possession offences, which accounted for about half of all drug offences.

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

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3302.

Customized data tables from the incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey for 2007 are available upon request. Information includes details on criminal incidents (such as the use of firearms and other weapons, clearance status, location), as well as the age and sex of both victims and accused persons.

The Juristat: Crime Statistics in Canada, 2007, Vol. 28, no. 7 (85-002-XIE, free), is now available. From the Publications module of our website, choose Free Internet publications, then Crime and justice. 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).