Canada Year Book


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    Crime and justice

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    The police-reported crime rate, which measures the volume of crime reported to and by the police, dropped 5% in 2008 to reach its lowest level since 1977. The youth crime rate also declined 5%, the fifth drop since 2003.

    The rate of 6.6 crimes per 100 people followed a peak of 10.3 crimes per 100 people in 1991. For youth crime, the rate of 2.8 crimes per 100 followed a peak of 6.3 in 1991.

    Police reported 2.2 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) in 2008, in which one in five was violent. Nearly all Criminal Code and federal statute offences declined in 2008. Some exceptions included increases in homicide, forcible confinement and cannabis possession.

    The rate of violent incidents dropped; the rate of common assault, the most frequent violent crime, decreased 2%; and the rate of attempted murder fell 10%. However, the homicide rate increased slightly, up 2% from 2007, the fourth such increase since 2003.

    Homicide rates

    Homicide rate increases in British Columbia and Alberta, mainly in rural areas, contributed to the rise. New Brunswick reported its lowest homicide rate since 1968. Manitoba's homicide rate also dropped in 2008, but still remains the highest of all the provinces.

    Together, seven offences accounted for almost 80% of all reported crime: theft under $5,000 (25%), mischief (17%), break and enter (10%), common assault (8%), administration of justice offences (8%), motor vehicle theft (6%) and disturbing the peace (5%).

    There were decreases in virtually all of these high-volume offences in 2008. In total, 77,000 fewer offences were reported in 2008, including 28,000 fewer thefts under $5,000, 22,000 fewer incidents of break and enter, and 20,000 fewer motor vehicle thefts.

    Chart 7.1 Police-reported crime rate and Crime Severity Index
    View data source for chart 7.1

    Crime Severity Index

    The Crime Severity Index (CSI) tracks changes in the severity of crime. Traditional crime rates are heavily influenced by fluctuations in high-volume, less serious offences, such as mischief and theft under $5,000. In the CSI, each type of offence is assigned a seriousness weight derived from actual sentences handed down by courts in all the provinces and territories. When used with the crime rate, the index provides a more accurate picture of crime.

    As with the crime rate, the severity of crime declined 5% in 2008, the fifth consecutive annual decrease. The severity of crime has declined at a faster rate over this decade than the number of crimes reported to police.

    About half of the drop in the severity of police-reported crime in 2008 resulted from a 10% decrease in break and enter incidents.

    The severity of police-reported crime dropped across the country in 2008, except in Prince Edward Island (+7%), Nunavut (+2%), New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories (both +1%).

    Chart 7.2 Police-reported violent crime rate and Violent Crime Severity Index
    View data source for chart 7.2

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