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General Social Survey: Victimization

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First results from the 2009 General Social Survey (GSS) on victimization show that 27% of Canadians aged 15 and older said they had been a victim of a criminal incident in the 12 months before the survey. This proportion was unchanged from 2004, the last time the victimization survey was conducted.

Rates of victimization resulting from violent crimes, namely sexual assault, physical assault and robbery, remained stable between 2004 and 2009.

Overall, rates of victimization resulting from household crimes also remained stable between 2004 and 2009. However, thefts of motor vehicles or parts declined 23% while break-ins increased by 21%.

The majority of self-reported victimizations were non-violent in nature. About 36% consisted of household incidents (namely, break-ins, thefts of motor vehicles or parts, vandalism or theft of household property), while 34% consisted of theft of personal property. Violent incidents accounted for 30% of self-reported incidents.

Overall, just under one-third (31%) of all incidents were reported to the police, down from 34% in 2004. In the case of violent crime, 29% of incidents were reported to police, while about 36% of household incidents were brought to their attention.

Rates of violent victimization remain steady

In 2009, nearly 1.6 million Canadians, or 6% of the population aged 15 and over in the 10 provinces, reported having been the victim of a violent crime, that is, a sexual assault, a robbery or a physical assault, in the 12 months before the survey. This proportion was essentially unchanged from 2004.

Note to readers

The article, "Criminal victimization in Canada, 2009," presents results from the 2009 victimization cycle of the General Social Survey (GSS). It contains information on the nature and extent of criminal victimization as provided by Canadians. In addition, it examines the characteristics associated with criminal victimizations, including socio-demographic risk factors, consequences of victimization and victims' decisions on whether to report incidents to police.

In 2009, the GSS collected information from 19,500 respondents aged 15 and older living in the 10 provinces. Data from the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut were also collected and will be published at a later date. The GSS cycle on victimization, which is conducted every five years, collects information on personal accounts of criminal victimization for eight crime types: sexual assault, robbery, physical assault, break and enter, theft of motor vehicles or parts, theft of household property, vandalism and theft of personal property.

Each year Statistics Canada also releases police-reported data from the Uniform Crime Reporting survey, which covers all crimes under the Criminal Code. The most recent data were published in July 2010.

One of the unique contributions of the GSS is that it captures information on criminal incidents whether or not they are reported to police.

Physical assault was the most common form of violent crime self-reported by victims, followed by sexual assault and robbery.

It was not uncommon for victims of a violent crime to report having experienced multiple violent incidents. About 74% of victims of violent incidents reported that they had been victimized once in the previous 12 months. An additional 16% said they had been violently victimized twice, while 10% reported three or more times.

Younger people were much more likely than older people to report that they had been victims of a violent crime. Individuals between 15 and 24 years old were almost 15 times more likely to have been a victim than seniors 65 and older.

Factors related to violent victimization

The 2009 GSS found that certain demographic factors may increase the likelihood of experiencing a violent crime.

The rate of self-reported violent victimization was highest among single people and lowest among those who were married. People living in common-law relationships also had a higher rate of violent victimization than those who were married.

Rates of victimization were also higher among certain groups. For example, individuals who identified themselves as Aboriginal were twice as likely as the non-Aboriginal population to report being a victim of a violent offence.

The rate was lower for immigrants than for non-immigrants, and lower for visible minorities than for non-visible minorities.

Rates of reporting to police highest for household victimization

The 2009 GSS asked victims whether or not the incident came to the attention of the police.

For the eight crime types covered by the 2009 GSS on victimization, the proportion of incidents reported to the police by respondents fell from 34% in 2004 to 31% in 2009.

Rates of reporting were highest for incidents of household victimization (36%). Among household crimes, break-ins (54%) were most often reported followed by theft of motor vehicles or parts (50%). Fewer than 1 in 4 household property thefts were reported to the police.

For violent crime, 29% of incidents were reported to police in 2009, essentially the same as 2004. Among violent crimes, robberies (including attempted robberies) were most likely to be reported to police (43%), followed by physical assaults (34%).

For incidents of theft of personal property, 28% were brought to the attention of the police, again similar to the proportion of incidents reported to police in 2004.

Victimization rates higher in Western Canada

Victimization rates were higher in Western Canada than in the eastern part of the country. For both violent and household crime, the western provinces had the highest rates of victimization, led by Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

A similar west to east pattern was found among census metropolitan areas for both violent and household crime. The highest rates of violent victimization were reported in Regina and the lowest in Toronto.

Majority of Canadians satisfied with their personal safety

Over 9 in 10 Canadians (93%) said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their personal safety from crime, similar to 2004 (94%).

When asked about specific situations, Canadians indicated feeling as safe in 2009 as they had in 2004. For example, 90% of Canadians reported that they felt safe when walking alone in their neighbourhood at night. About 83% said they were not at all worried when they were home alone at night.

About 58% of those who used public transportation reported that they were not at all worried when waiting for or using these services after dark.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4504.

The Juristat article "Criminal victimization in Canada, 2009," Vol. 30, no. 2 (85-002-X, free), is now available. From the Key resource module of our website under Publications, choose All subjects, then Crime and Justice, and Juristat.

For more 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.