Youth crime in Canada, 2014

by Mary K. Allen and Tamy Superle

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Highlights

  • There were almost 101,000 youth aged 12 to 17 accused of Criminal Code violations (excluding traffic) reported by police in 2014, resulting in a youth crime rate of 4,322 per 100,000 youth population. While youth make up 7% of the Canadian population, they comprise 13% of persons accused of crime.
  • For the most part, police-reported youth crime involves relatively minor offences. The most frequent criminal offences committed by youth in 2014 were theft of $5,000 and under (960 per 100,000 youth), mischief (574), and common assault (546) (one of the less serious violent crimes). The rate of cannabis possession was also high (531), as were the combined rates of youth accused of offences related to the administration justice together with violations under the YCJA (565 and 207 respectively).
  • The police-reported youth crime rate has been falling steadily since 2006, continuing a longer term downward trend since peaking in 1991. Between 2000 and 2014, the youth crime rate declined 42%, a notably larger decline than the drop in overall crime (-34%). This drop in youth crime was primarily driven by a 51% decrease in the rate of youth accused of property crime, particularly in theft of $5,000 and under and break and enter.
  • The rate of youth accused of crime in 2014 was lower than the rate for young adults aged 18 to 24 (5,428 per 100,000 population), but over twice the accused rate for adults aged 25 and over (2,048 per 100,000 population). These differences, however, varied by offence.
  • The rate of individuals accused in property crimes such as break and enter or theft was highest among youth aged 12 to 17, while violent crime was more common among young adults aged 18 to 24. Among all police-reported criminal offences, rates of accused were higher for youth than for adults in incidents of theft of $5,000 and under, break and enter, sexual assault level 1 and sexual violations against children.
  • One in ten incidents where a youth was accused occurred at school during school hours or a supervised activity. Violent crime (19%) and drug offences (27%) where a youth was accused were more likely to occur at school than property crimes. Cannabis possession and common assault were the most frequent offences with youth accused occurring at school.
  • Among police-reported criminal incidents involving youth accused in 2014, one quarter (26%) involved more than one accused. By comparison, in incidents involving adult accused where no youth was involved, a much smaller proportion involved more than one accused in the criminal act (7%). As a result, among all youth accused of crime in 2014, 42% were co-offenders compared to 24% of young adult accused and 14% of older adult accused.
  • In keeping with the principles and objectives of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), which aim to divert youth away from the formal court system especially when accused of relatively minor offences, 48% of youth accused of crime in 2014 were charged by police compared to 63% of adults.
  • Among youth accused, charge rates were higher for violent offences (51%). For property offences, 38% of youth accused were charged. Instead, most youth accused of property offences were cleared by means other than a charge, such as warnings and cautions, or referrals to community programs or other extrajudicial sanctions programs under the YCJA.
  • The rate at which youth were charged by police dropped considerably with the introduction of the YCJA in 2003. In addition, there has been a notable, although more gradual, decline in the proportion of youth who are sentenced to custody.

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Youth criminal behaviour is a major concern for most societies, specifically when it comes to how youth are treated within the justice system.Note 1 For example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a framework for the treatment of accused under age 18, stipulating that states recognize the rights of children accused of crimes to be “treated in a manner ... which takes into account the child’s age and the desirability of promoting the child’s reintegration and the child’s assuming a constructive role in society” (United Nations 1989). In addition, crime prevention initiatives often focus on young people with the hope that programs will have long-term impacts on crime reduction. Research internationally and over time has shown that youth are more likely to be accused of crime than adults (Ullmer and Steffensmeier 2014). Moreover, research has shown that the majority of adult offenders committed their first criminal acts as youth, and only a minority of offenders commit crime for the first time as adults (Farrington et al. 2012; Piquero et. al. 2012).

Not all youth offenders, however, are destined for a life of crime. Many youth who commit crimes may be one-time offenders committing minor crimes such as mischief or petty theft, and many “age out” of criminal behaviour as they transition into adulthood (Massoglia and Uggen 2010). In Canada, it has long been recognized that youth (aged 12 to 17) accused of a crime should be handled differently by the justice system than their adult counterparts, since it is felt that those under the age of 18 lack the maturity of adults, are considered less blameworthy or culpable than adults and hence should not be treated in the same way (Davis-Barron 2009; Department of Justice 2013; Farrington et al. 2012; Howell et al. 2013). In 1991, Canada ratified the UN Convention on Children’s Rights which addresses the treatment of youth accused of crime.

In 2003, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) replaced the Young Offenders Act and marked a significant shift in the way that the Canadian criminal justice system dealt with youth accused of criminal activity (see Text box 1 for more details). One of the foundations of the YCJA is the principle of “fair and proportionate accountability that is consistent with the greater dependency of young persons and their reduced level of maturity” (YCJA, s. 3(1)(b)(ii)).

The Youth Criminal Justice Act provides for more age-appropriate responses to youth crime, acknowledging that extrajudicial measures which do not involve the formal court system “are often the most appropriate and effective way to address youth crime [and] allow for effective and timely interventions focused on correcting offending behaviour” (YCJA, s.4(b)). The Act aims to divert youth offenders involved in less serious types of crime with extrajudicial measures, and, as a result, reduce “the over-reliance on incarceration for non-violent young persons”. At the same time, the Act allows for more serious consequences for violent crime, especially for the most serious offenders (YCJA, Preamble).

This Juristat article uses data from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey to examine youth crime reported by police in 2014. In addition, the report uses data from the Integrated Criminal Courts Survey (ICCS) to chart trends in court processing of youth from 2000 to 2014, including the period before and after the introduction of the YCJA in 2003.

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Text box 1
The Youth Criminal Justice Act

In 2003, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) replaced the Young Offenders Act (YOA) in order to deal less severely with youth aged 12 to 17 accused of less serious offences, particularly first-time offenders, while ensuring serious consequences for youth involved in the most serious crimes (Department of Justice 2013).Note 2

Under the YCJA, before a youth can be charged with an offence, police and prosecutors are required to consider whether it is sufficient for the youth to be dealt with by other means or “extrajudicial measures”, especially where the offence is non-violent and the youth has no previous offending behaviour. The police officer may “take no further action, warn the young person, administer a caution ... or, with the consent of the young person, refer the young person to a program or agency in the community that may assist the young person not to commit offences” (YCJA, s. 6 (1)).

If these options are not considered adequate, the Crown can also make use of more formal extrajudicial sanctions. These are defined programs which may include community service, an apology, service and/or restitution to a victim, or counseling and intervention programs. If a youth fails to meet the conditions of these formal sanctions, they may be prosecuted in Youth Court for the original offence. If they meet the conditions of the formal sanctions imposed, the charge will not proceed.

If they are found guilty by the court, the YCJA lays out a variety of sentencing options aimed at ensuring that youth are held accountable through meaningful consequences that reflect the seriousness of the crime. Sentencing options include reprimands, discharge (with or without conditions), fines, compensation or restitution, community service, probation, referral to a support and supervision program or other non-residential program, or, in the most serious cases, custody. For youth aged 14 and older charged with the most serious offences, such as homicide or aggravated sexual assault, the Crown must consider whether it would be appropriate to make an application for an adult sentence (YCJA, s. 64).

Violations under the YCJA include violations by individuals of any age assisting a young person to unlawfully leave a place of custody or infringing a publication ban on naming an offender, as well as violations by youth accused such as failure to comply with the conditions of a youth sentence (ex. breach of probation).

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Youth crime rate

Police-reported youth crime rate lower than the rate for young adults aged 18 to 24, but double that of older adults aged 25 and over

In total, there were almost 101,000 youth aged 12 to 17 accused of Criminal Code violations reported by police in 2014, resulting in a youth crime rate of 4,322 youth accused per 100,000 youth population (Table 1).Note 3 While youth made up 7% of the Canadian population, they comprised 13% of persons accused of crime in 2014.Note 4 The number of youth accused includes youth who were either charged or recommended for charging, as well as those who were diverted from the formal criminal justice system through means that include warnings, cautions and referrals to community programs.

The overall rate of youth accused of Criminal Code offences in 2014 was 1.8 times higher than the rate of adult accused (4,322 vs. 2,452). When comparing youth and adult crime, however, it is important to distinguish between young adults (defined here as those between the ages of 18 to 24) and older adults 25 years of age and over. The rate of youth accused of crime was, in fact, lower than the rate for young adults aged 18 to 24 (5,428 per 100,000 young adults), but over twice the accused rate for older adults (2,048 per 100,000 older adults).

In addition to the youth who were accused of violations under the Criminal Code in 2014, there were approximately 15,300 youth accused in drug offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, for a rate of 657 per 100,000 youth.Note 5 This was about three times the rate for older adults aged 25 and over (215 per 100,000 older adults), but substantially lower than the rate for young adults aged 18 to 24 (1,108 per 100,000 young adults).

In 2014, a total of about 1,200 youth were accused in Criminal Code traffic incidents, and about 5,000 accused in other federal statute violations, which includes those accused of violating the Youth Criminal Justice Act (see Text box 1 for description of YCJA offences).

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Text box 2
Measuring police-reported youth crime

Similar to the overall crime rate, the police-reported youth crime rate is comprised of violent crime, property crime, and other Criminal Code violations. It is important to note, however, that unlike the overall crime rate, which is based on the number of criminal incidents per 100,000 population, the youth crime rate measures the number of individuals aged 12 to 17 accused in a criminal incident per 100,000 youth (both charged and cleared without charge).Note 6 Similarly, the adult rates in this report are calculated as the number of adults accused per 100,000 of the relevant adult age group (such as the young adult accused rate per 100,000 young adults).

The overall youth crime rate, like the overall crime rate, does not include Criminal Code traffic offences or offences under other Federal Statutes such as drug offences or violations specific to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Information on these offences is presented separately in this analysis.

Another measure presented in this report is the Youth Crime Severity Index (YCSI). The YCSI is a measure which not only takes into account the volume of crime, but also the seriousness of crime, and includes traffic violations as well as drug offences, violations under the YCJA and other federal offences.

In Canada, children under the age of 12 cannot be held criminally responsible for violations of the law. They can, however, be identified by police as accused. There were about 5,400 “child accused” in 2014, comprising less than 1% of individuals accused in police-reported criminal incidents.

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Police-reported youth crime rate on the decline

The police-reported youth crime rate has fallen steadily since 2006, continuing a longer term downward trend since peaking in 1991. The youth crime rate fell through the 1990s, then increased slightly during the first few years of this century before resuming its decline (Chart 1). Between 2000 and 2014, the police-reported youth crime rate declined 42%, a notably larger decrease than the drop in the overall crime rate (-34%) over the same time period (Chart 2). This drop in the youth crime rate was primarily driven by a large (51%) decrease in the rate of youth accused of property crime, particularly in theft of $5,000 and under and break and enter.

Chart 1

Description for Chart 1 Rates of youth accused of crime, 1977 to 2014
Data table for chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1. The information is grouped by year (appearing as row headers), rate (appearing as column headers).
  rate per 100,000 youth
1977 4,661
1978 5,221
1979 5,702
1980 6,117
1981 6,139
1982 5,864
1983 6,429
1984 5,512
1985 6,827
1986 7,606
1987 7,867
1988 7,792
1989 8,027
1990 8,167
1991 9,126
1992 8,897
1993 8,201
1994 7,861
1995 7,887
1996 7,740
1997 7,310
1998 6,957
1999 6,439
2000 6,917
2001 7,161
2002 6,947
2003 7,281
2004 6,960
2005 6,597
2006 6,809
2007 6,771
2008 6,538
2009 6,516
2010 6,079
2011 5,482
2012 5,155
2013 4,395
2014 4,017

Chart 2

Description for Chart 2 Police-reported crime and youth crime rates, by offence type, 2000 to 2014
Data table for chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2 Total youth crime, Total crime rate, Youth violent crime, Youth property crime, Youth other Criminal Code offences and Youth drug offences, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Total youth crime Total crime rate Youth violent crime Youth property crime Youth other Criminal Code offences Youth drug offences
rate per 100,000 population
2000 6,914 7,607 1,944 3,909 1,061 593
2001 7,159 7,587 1,984 3,974 1,201 684
2002 6,945 7,512 1,898 3,878 1,169 680
2003 7,280 7,770 1,961 4,133 1,186 626
2004 6,959 7,600 1,925 3,858 1,176 735
2005 6,596 7,325 1,895 3,552 1,149 671
2006 6,809 7,245 1,959 3,610 1,239 694
2007 6,770 6,908 1,952 3,576 1,242 708
2008 6,537 6,631 1,892 3,423 1,222 732
2009 6,515 6,461 1,873 3,443 1,199 693
2010 6,078 6,159 1,821 3,115 1,143 763
2011 5,482 5,779 1,727 2,700 1,055 817
2012 5,155 5,632 1,618 2,509 1,028 764
2013 4,394 5,195 1,422 2,072 900 751
2014 4,016 5,046 1,273 1,904 839 657

The severity of police-reported youth crime, as measured by the YCSI, fell at the same rate as the youth crime rate over this same period. Between 2000 and 2014, the YCSI fell 42% compared to a 38% drop for the overall Crime Severity Index (See definition in Text box 7).

In contrast to the decline in the rate of youth accused in Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic), the rate of youth accused in drug offences (under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act) was 11% higher in 2014 than in 2000. However, youth drug crime has been falling since it peaked in 2011. The trend in drug crime has been mainly driven by changes in the rate of youth accused in incidents of cannabis possession, which accounted for about 80% of youth accused of drug offences in 2014.

Nature of crimes committed by youth

The most frequent criminal offences committed by youth were theft of $5,000 and under, mischief, common assault, cannabis possession and offences related to the administration of justice

For the most part, police-reported youth crime involves relatively minor offences. The most frequent criminal offences committed by youth in 2014 were theft of $5,000 and under (960 per 100,000 youth), mischief (574), and common assault (546) (one of the less serious violent crimes). The rate of cannabis possession was also high (531), as were the combined rates of youth accused of offences related to the administration justice together with violations under the YCJA (565 and 207 respectively) (Table 1).Note 7

Youth were notably more likely than adults to be accused in incidents of robbery, theft, break and enter, sexual assault and sexual violations against children

While differences in youth and adult accused rates varied by offence, generally speaking, rates of property crimes (such as break and enter or theft) were highest among youth (Chart 3). Young adults aged 18 to 24, by comparison, had the highest rates for violent crime and other Criminal Code offences (such as disturbing the peace, offences related to the administration of justice and drug offences).Note 8

Chart 3

Description for Chart 3 Persons accused of selected offences, by age group of accused and offence type, 2014
Data table for chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3 Youth aged 12 to 17, Young adults aged 18 to 24 and Older adults aged 25 and over, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Youth aged 12 to 17 Young adults aged 18 to 24 Older adults aged 25 and over
rate per 100,000 population
Other federal statute
violations
221 71 25
Drug offences 657 1,108 215
Criminal Code traffic
violations
53 506 252
Other Criminal Code
offences
918 1,945 699
Property crime 2,124 1,959 701
Violent crime 1,281 1,524 649

For some specific offences, however, youth had notably higher rates than other age groups. In 2014, youth were more likely than adults (both younger and older) to be accused of theft of $5,000 and under, break and enter, sexual assault level 1 and sexual violations against children. In addition, they also had the highest rates for robbery, uttering threats and motor vehicle theft as compared to adults.

Police-reported crime highest at age 17, and even younger for some offences

According to 2014 police-reported data, the peak age at which individuals were accused of crimes was 17 years (Table 2). The rate of youth accused at 12 years of age was lowest at 1,317 per 100,000 while those 17 years of age had a rate of 6,242 per 100,000 (Chart 4).Note 9 The relationship between age and crime has been noted in other studies in Canada and elsewhere, and a number of explanations can be found in the literature. Research suggests, for example, that desistance from crime is a result of a combination of psychological and social factors. These factors include brain development and maturity, as well as transitions into adulthood with accompanying employment and changes in family situations, social context and peer groups (Farrington et al. 2012; Howell et al. 2013; Steinberg et al. 2015; Sweeten et al. 2013; Ullmer and Steffensmeier 2014).

Chart 4

Description for Chart 4 Rate of persons accused, by age, 2014
Data table for chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 4. The information is grouped by Age (appearing as row headers), Total Criminal Code offences (appearing as column headers).
  rate per 100,000 population
3 3
4 10
5 26
6 51
7 89
8 133
9 250
10 328
11 568
12 1,317
13 2,483
14 4,050
15 5,338
16 6,029
17 6,242
18 6,002
19 5,807
20 5,632
21 5,433
22 5,278
23 5,001
24 4,942
25 4,953
26 4,824
27 4,645
28 4,626
29 4,513
30 4,366
31 4,205
32 4,029
33 3,847
34 3,661
35 3,543
36 3,509
37 3,249
38 3,223
39 3,088
40 3,049
41 2,853
42 2,890
43 2,685
44 2,625
45 2,598
46 2,531
47 2,320
48 2,151
49 1,950
50 1,847
51 1,721
52 1,624
53 1,393
54 1,287
55 1,181
56 1,040
57 925
58 816
59 757
60 707
61 611
62 572
63 504
64 458
65 407
66 408
67 349
68 352
69 298
70 305
71 315
72 264
73 261
74 228
75 259
76 207
77 199
78 184
79 158
80 152
81 132
82 165
83 157
84 126
85 116
86 106
87 100
88 80
89 67

For some specific crimes, accused rates were highest before age 17 (Table 2, Chart 5).Note 10 In particular, in 2014, the rate of persons accused of sexual assault and sexual violations against children was highest among younger youth (see Text box 3).

Chart 5

Description for Chart 5 Rates of youth and young adult accused, selected offences, by age of accused, 2014
Data table for chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 5 Assault (all levels), Theft of $5,000 and under, Cannabis possession, Mischief, Break and enter, Uttering threats, Robbery and Motor vehicle theft, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age Assault (all levels) Theft of $5,000 and under Cannabis possession Mischief Break and enter Uttering threats Robbery Motor vehicle theft
rate per 100,000 population
12 300 266 43 242 107 89 9 24
13 523 533 157 414 188 155 32 49
14 704 1,025 353 561 262 214 83 88
15 921 1,283 622 642 361 285 140 156
16 990 1,344 844 742 381 279 205 159
17 1,061 1,214 1,064 791 399 276 198 156
18 1,001 1,002 1,130 743 324 203 170 127
19 1,052 828 957 652 270 200 126 113
20 1,055 737 809 589 239 191 113 106
21 1,053 678 704 580 229 192 91 96
22 1,067 644 627 545 172 173 93 83
23 993 627 558 504 171 181 72 69
24 1,018 611 501 501 171 175 74 77
25 1,011 616 438 477 183 175 71 86

In incidents of motor vehicle theft, uttering threats, robbery and theft of $5,000 and under, accused rates were highest between the ages of 15 and 17, and then declined. Rates of assault (all types), however, were highest among youth at age 17, and remained high among young adults aged 18 to 24. For disturbing the peace and administration of justice offences, rates increased with age among youth and were highest among young adults.

For drug offences, rates of accused increased through adolescence, with the highest rates of cannabis offences recorded between age 17 and 19. However, crime related to other drugs such as cocaine or heroin was highest among young adults, especially those aged 20 to 24.

Use of weapons in police-reported youth crime

Weapons (knives, firearms, or other weapons such as a club or blunt instrument) were slightly more likely to be present in violent incidents involving youth accused than those where no youth was involved (21% vs. 16%).Note 11 Regardless of the age of the accused, very few criminal incidents in 2014 involved a firearm. A firearm was present in 2.8% of violent incidents involving at least one youth accused, and 1.5% of violent incidents involving only adult accused.

Weapons were not present in most violent crimes occurring on school property, either during or after supervised hours. In 2014, 13% of violent incidents involving youth accused that took place on school grounds at any time involved weapons, primarily knives or blunt instruments (1% involved a firearm or firearm-like weapon). Three-quarters (77%) involved physical force or threats.

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Text box 3
Rates of police-reported sexual offences highest among youth

According to police-reported data in 2014, youth accounted for 17% of persons accused of sexual offences (both sexual assaults and sexual violations against children). Youth comprised 26% of all accused in sexual offences involving victims under the age of 18.Note 12 The highest rates for all individuals accused of sexual assault (level 1) in 2014 were among youth 14 to 16 years of age (primarily boys) (Chart 6). Moreover, the peak age of accused in sexual assault (level 1) in 2014 was higher than over the previous five years (combined). The highest rates of persons accused of sexual assault (level 1) between 2009 and 2013 were among those aged 13 and 14 years. An American study on young sexual offenders in 2004 found that sexual offending “increases sharply at age 12 and plateaus after age 14,” and that offences against younger children peaked in early adolescence (Finkelhor 2009). This study also cited research showing that a large majority of juvenile sex offenders are not repeat sexual offenders.

Chart 6

Description for Chart 6 Rates of youth and young adult accused, sexual offences, by age of accused, 2014
Data table for chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 6 Sexual assault - level 1 and Sexual violations against children, calculated using rate per 100,000 population units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age Sexual assault - level 1 Sexual violations against children
rate per 100,000 population
12 40 13
13 68 16
14 83 20
15 84 26
16 82 19
17 77 15
18 67 19
19 61 14
20 57 14
21 53 14
22 54 13
23 48 10
24 46 11
25 52 8

Sexual violations against children include a variety of Criminal Code sexual offences specific to child victims (see Text box 7 for more detail). The most common of these is sexual interference, which accounted for 62% of youth accused of sexual violations against children committed in 2014. Another 18% were accused of invitation to sexual touching, and 17% accused of luring a child with a computer. These proportions were similar among adult accused (61% sexual interference, 15% invitation to sexual touching, and 18% luring a child with a computer).

In sexual offences of all types where the relationship between victim and accused could be clearly identified (specifically in incidents where there was a single accused and single victim), 64% of youth accused were a friend or acquaintance, and 31% were family members of the victim.

For about four in ten (41%) youth accused in a sexual offence, the victim was a child under 12 years of age (in incidents with single accused and single victim). In fact, youth accused accounted for 33% of all sexual offences where the victim was a child. Most (79%) of these youth accused with child victims were 12 to 15 years of age. The accused was a family member of the victim in over half (57%) of incidents where a youth was accused of sexual offences (including sexual assault) against a child, most often a sibling (33%).

Younger youth (aged 12 to 15) were most likely to be charged by police when the victim was a child (61%) and least likely to be charged in sexual offences involving peers (49%). Similarly, charge rates for older youth (aged 16 and 17) were also highest (73%) when the victim was a child. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of 16 to 17 year olds were charged when the victim was in the same age group. When the victim was an adult, 59% of 12 to 15 year olds accused and 72% of 16 to 17 year olds were charged.Note 13

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Text box 4
Gang-related homicides consistently higher for youth than for adults

Homicide is the most serious criminal offence and one of great concern to the public and policy makers. There is particular concern when youth are involved in homicide. According to the Homicide Survey, there were 25 youth accused of homicide in 2014, notably fewer than in 2013 (40) and also below the 10 year average (58). Overall youth accused of homicide accounted for 6% of all individuals accused of homicide in 2014. This is lower than the ten year average: Between 2005 and 2014, 10% of individuals accused of homicide were youth.

According to the Homicide Survey, youth were more likely than adults to co-offend in homicides (where there was more than one individual accused). Over the ten year period from 2005 to 2014, 60% of youth accused in homicides were co-offenders compared to 35% of adults.

Similarly, over the past decade the proportion of gang-related homicides was also consistently greater for youth than for adults. From 2005 to 2014, 29% of homicides involving a youth accused were identified as gang related, a much larger proportion than was found among homicides involving adult accused (14%).Note 14

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Police-reported youth crime at school

About one in ten police-reported crimes involving a youth accused occurred at school

According to police-reported statistics in 2014, a private residence was the most frequent location for all criminal incidents, regardless of whether the accused was an adult or a youth. In addition, 12% of criminal incidents involving at least one youth accused occurred on school property (10% at school during or just outside regular school hours or during a school-sanctioned extracurricular activity such as at a supervised school dance or sporting event).

Cannabis possession and common assault most frequent crimes committed by youth at school

Among police-reported criminal incidents in 2014 where youth were accused, one in five (19%) violent criminal incidents and more than one quarter (27%) of drug crimes occurred at school during or just outside supervised hours or during school-sanctioned extracurricular activities (Chart 7). In particular, the most frequent offences involving youth accused occurring at school during supervised activity were cannabis possession and common assault, representing 23% and 22% (respectively) of all incidents committed by youth at school. Uttering threats constituted another 12%. Property crime by youth occurred less often at school (4%) (Chart 8).

Chart 7

Description for Chart 7 Location of criminal incidents, by involvement of youth accused, selected offences, 2014
Data table for chart 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 7 Violent crime, Property crime, Drug crime, Youth and No youth, calculated using percent of incidents units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Violent crime Property crime Drug crime
Youth No youth Youth No youth Youth No youth
percent of incidents
Residence 41 66 36 36 13 17
Street or open place 21 17 15 13 46 71
Commercial establishment 6 11 38 47 5 7
Non-commercial establishment (excluding schools) 9 5 5 4 5 5
School, supervised hoursNote 1 19 1 4 0sNote: value rounded to 0 (zero) where there is a meaningful distinction between true zero and the value that was rounded 27 0sNote: value rounded to 0 (zero) where there is a meaningful distinction between true zero and the value that was rounded
School, unsupervised hoursNote 1 3 0sNote: value rounded to 0 (zero) where there is a meaningful distinction between true zero and the value that was rounded 3 0sNote: value rounded to 0 (zero) where there is a meaningful distinction between true zero and the value that was rounded 4 0sNote: value rounded to 0 (zero) where there is a meaningful distinction between true zero and the value that was rounded

Chart 8

Description for Chart 8 Selected offences as a proportion of police-reported incidents with youth accused committed at school during supervised hours, 2014
Data table for chart 8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 8. The information is grouped by Selected offences (appearing as row headers), percent of incidents involving youth accused (appearing as column headers).
  percent of incidents involving youth accused
Sexual offences 2.1
Criminal harassment 2.6
Mischief 4.0
Other drug offencesNote 2 5.3
Other assaultNote 1 5.3
Theft of $5,000 and under 7.1
Uttering threats 11.9
Common assault 21.8
Cannabis possession 23.5

An examination of the times of the day when criminal incidents occurred also highlights differences between youth and adult crime. Specifically, violent incidents involving youth accused occurred most frequently at noon hour (between 12 and 1 pm) or shortly after school (between 3 pm and 4 pm) (Chart 9). Violent crimes in which only an adult or adults were accused did not peak during these periods and were generally highest during evening hours (5 pm to midnight).

Property and drug crimes involving youth accused did not show similar peak activity at noon and after school. Instead, property crime tended to occur in the late afternoon and drug crimes at night whether there was a youth accused or not.

Chart 9

Description for Chart 9 Time of day of violent criminal incidents, by involvement of youth accused, 2014
Data table for chart 9
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 9. The information is grouped by time of day (appearing as row headers), Youth and No youth, calculated using percent of incidents units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Time of day Youth No youth
percent of incidents
0 3 4
1 2 4
2 2 4
3 1 3
4 1 2
5 1 2
6 1 2
7 1 2
8 3 3
9 4 3
10 4 4
11 5 4
12 8 5
13 6 4
14 6 5
15 8 5
16 7 5
17 5 5
18 6 6
19 6 6
20 6 6
21 5 5
22 4 5
23 5 6

Co-offending among youth

Youth more likely than adults to be involved in crimes involving more than one accused

Consistent with previous research (Carrington et al. 2013), co-offending, where there are multiple individuals accused in a criminal incident, is relatively uncommon in police-reported crime in Canada. Of the 709,685 cleared criminal incidents reported by police in 2014, 10% involved more than one accused person (co-offending). Among criminal incidents involving youth accused in 2014, however, one quarter (26%) involved more than one accused. By comparison, in incidents involving adult accused in which no youth accused was involved, a much smaller proportion involved more than one accused in the criminal act (7%) (Table 3).Note 15

Because co-offending was more frequent in incidents involving youth, a relatively high proportion of youth accused were co-offenders compared to their young adult and older adult counterparts. Among all youth accused of crime in 2014, 42% were co-offenders compared to 24% of their young adult and 14% of their adult counterparts. The differences among the various age groups are especially pronounced when looking specifically at group crime (defined as incidents which involve 3 or more offenders): 19% of youth accused were involved in group crime compared to 8% of young adult and 3% of adult accused.

The majority (75%) of youth co-offenders were accused in criminal incidents involving other accused who were youth or child(ren) under age 12. One-quarter (25%) of youth co-offenders were accused in incidents where there was also an adult accused. Co-offending with adult(s) was more common in violent crimes and drug crimes, where 31% and 36% (respectively) of youth co-offenders were accused alongside adult(s). Co-offending with adult(s) was less common for youth co-offenders in property crimes (21%).Note 16

Co-offending most common among youth accused in incidents involving property crime

Co-offending for youth differed by the type of offence and was most frequent in incidents involving property crime, where 57% of accused were co-offenders (Chart 10). This was most common for those accused of breaking and entering (77%) (Table 4).Note 17

Chart 10

Description for Chart 10 Percentage of accused in incidents involving multiple accused, by most serious violation, Canada, 2014
Data table for chart 10
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 10 Youth aged 12 to 17, Young adults aged 18 to 24 and Older adults aged 25 and over, calculated using percent of accused units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Youth aged 12 to 17 Young adults aged 18 to 24 Older adults aged 25 and over
percent of accused
Violent 28 23 10
Property 57 32 19
Other Criminal Code offences 24 17 12
Total crime 42 24 14
Drug offences 50 48 33

As with adults, youth accused in police-reported violent incidents generally committed crimes alone; just over a quarter (28%) were co-offenders. However, the majority of youth accused in some of the most serious offences were co-offenders. In particular, 75% of youth accused in robberies, 64% of those accused in homicides or attempted murders, 62% of accused in incidents of serious sexual assault (levels 2 and 3) and 57% in incidents of aggravated assault (level 3) were co-offenders.

Among adults, co-offending was generally less frequent than among youth for most police-reported offences. A notable exception was for drug crimes, where co-offending was similarly frequent among young adults aged 18 to 24 and youth: 50% of youth accused were co-offenders compared to 48% of young adults. Older adults (aged 25 and over) accused in drug offences were less likely to co-offend (33%).

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Text box 5
Female youth accused

About one in four youth accused was female

According to police-reported data males are more likely to be the accused in crimes committed by adults, and this is the case with youth crime as well. In 2014, the rate of male youth accused (6,071 per 100, 000 male youth) was about 2.5 times higher than the rate for females (2,461 per 100,000 female youth).

Overall, 72% of youth accused in criminal offences were male and 28% were female (Table 5). While a majority of youth accused were male in all offences except prostitution (included in the category “other Criminal Code offences”), for some offences the proportion of accused who were female was higher than what is generally seen among youth accused. In particular, among youth accused in offences involving common assault, criminal harassment and disturbing the peace, over 35% of accused were female. By comparison, fewer than 30% of adults accused in incidents involving these offences were female. In incidents of theft of $5,000 and under, just over 35% of accused in all age groups were female.

Female youth accused about as likely to co-offend as males overall, but more likely for some crimes

Female youth were about as likely to co-offend as males: 42% vs. 41% for all police-reported criminal offences. However, females were notably more likely than males to be co-offenders in incidents involving criminal harassment (52% vs. 37%) and uttering threats (21% vs. 16%). For accused in incidents involving mischief, male youth were notably more likely to co-offend (51% vs. 44%). Females comprised only 4.5% of youth accused in sexual offences, but were much more likely to co-offend in those incidents (29% vs. 11% for males).Note 18

Female youth less likely to be charged by police

The likelihood of being charged by police also differed by sex of the youth accused. For both violent and non-violent offences, girls were less likely to be charged than boys: 44% vs. 55% in violent offences, 28% vs. 42% in property crimes, and 24% vs. 34% in drug crimes. Instead, girls were more likely than boys to be cleared without charge, more often with a warning or caution. There was little difference between males and females in the proportion of youth charged in incidents of assault (all levels) or offences related to the administration of justice and violations under the YCJA.

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Charging of youth and use of extrajudicial measures by police

Youth less likely to be charged by police than adults

One of the goals of the 2003 YCJA was to divert youth away from the court system, especially when they were accused of relatively minor offences (see Text box 1). Given this goal, the YCJA explicitly lays out a variety of options available to police to clear an incident without having to charge the accused. For example, police may give a verbal warning or a written caution, or the accused may be referred to a community or extrajudicial sanctions program. As with adult accused, the charge may be cleared through ‘other means’, such as incidents where departmental discretion is exercised by police or where the complainant declines to lay charges. In 2014, 48% of youth accused in criminal incidents were charged, compared to 63% of adults. However, the difference in charge rates for adults and youth varied by type of offence (Chart 11).

Chart 11

Description for Chart 11 Proportion of accused charged, by age group of accused and offence type, 2014
Data table for chart 11
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 11 Youth aged 12 to 17, Young adults aged 18 to 24 and Older adults aged 25 and over, calculated using percent of accused charged units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Youth aged 12 to 17 Young adults aged 18 to 24 Older adults aged 25 and over
percent of accused charged
Violent 51 67 65
Property 38 54 56
Other Criminal Code offences 64 71 66
Drug offences 32 54 65

The YCJA promotes the use of extrajudicial measures to divert youth from the court system primarily for lesser offences. Charge rates for youth accused in 2014 reflect this. More serious offences (those with the most severe penalties), such as homicide, attempted murder, sexual assault (levels 2 and 3), aggravated assault and robbery most often resulted in charges in 2014. Those offences that are generally considered less severe (with more minor penalties), such as common assault (43%), criminal harassment (22%), mischief (29%) and disturbing the peace (5%) were less likely to result in charges (Table 6).Note 19

While youth were about as likely as adults to be charged in more serious violent incidents, they were less likely to be charged in relatively less serious violent incidents. For example, youth accused in incidents of criminal harassment (22%) and common assault (43%) were much less likely to be charged than adults (52% and 63% respectively) (Chart 12). The proportion of accused charged in incidents of sexual assault level 1 and sexual offences against children was also lower for youth than for adults. Charge rates also differed between younger and older youth accused: for youth accused of sexual offences, the charge rate for those aged 12 to 15 was lower than the charge rate for those aged 16 to 17.Note 20

Chart 12

Description for Chart 12 Proportion of accused charged, by age group of accused, selected offences, 2014
Data table for chart 12
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 12 Youth aged 12 to 17 and Adults aged 18 and over, calculated using percent of accused charged units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Youth aged 12 to 17 Adults aged 18 and over
percent of accused charged
Disturbing the peace 37 51
Possession - cannabis 25 45
MischiefNote 1 29 24
Theft of $5,000 or under 29 63
Breaking and entering 63 72
Uttering threats 37 51
Criminal harassment 22 52
Assault - level 1 43 63
Sexual violations against children 50 78
Sexual assault level 1 61 76

While the YCJA aims to reduce charging for lesser offences, the proportion of youth accused who were charged in non-violent incidents was not substantially lower than for adults for some crimes (Chart 12). The proportion charged in incidents involving the more serious property offences of break and enter and motor vehicle theft were high for both youth and adults, and similarly low for both youth and adults in the less serious non-violent offences of disturbing the peace and mischief. The non-violent offences where youth were notably less likely than adults to be charged were theft (both over and under $5,000) and drug offences.

For all categories of offences (violent, property, etc.), the proportion of accused who were cleared by charge increased with age (Chart 13).

Chart 13

Description for Chart 13 Proportion of youth accused cleared by charge, by age of accused and offence type, 2014
Data table for chart 13
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 13 Violent crime, Property crime, Other Criminal Code offences, Total crime and Drug offences, calculated using percent of accused cleared by charge
percent of accused cleared by charge units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Violent crime Property crime Other Criminal Code offences Total crime Drug offences
percent of accused cleared by charge
12 years old 25 20 39 24 6
13 years old 35 27 49 33 16
14 years old 47 33 61 42 24
15 years old 52 39 65 48 28
16 years old 58 42 66 52 34
17 years old 61 45 67 55 38

Warnings and cautions are the most common alternative to charging youth

As noted above, the YCJA outlines a variety of extrajudicial measures that can be used by police in lieu of charging a youth with an offence. When charges were not laid or recommended in relation to a Criminal Code offence, youth were most likely to be cleared with a warning or caution (25%).Note 21 Warnings or cautions were most frequently given to youth accused in incidents of disturbing the peace (59%), cannabis possession (43%), criminal harassment (42%), theft of $5,000 and under (38%) and mischief (36%) (Table 7).

Another six percent of youth accused in criminal incidents were referred by police to community programs (such as substance abuse programs), or to a formal YCJA extrajudicial sanctions program. Finally, about one in five youth accused (21%) was cleared by other means. For these accused, the most common reasons reported for the clearance of the incident were when a complainant declined to proceed with charges or through departmental discretion.

Youth less likely to be charged when co-offending, unless there was also an adult accused

According to police reported statistics in 2014, 51% of youth were charged when they were the sole accused in crimes (excluding traffic). When there were other accused involved, 42% of youth were charged (Table 8). However, when there was an adult accused involved, youth were more likely to be charged (55%) than when the other(s) accused in the incident were not adults (38%).Note 22

For violent offences, 50% of youth accused were charged when they were the lone offender, but 56% were charged when co-offending. Two-thirds (67%) were charged in violent crimes when co-offending with an adult compared to 51% when co-offending with other youth. Charge rates for youth were higher when an adult co-offender was present in almost all violent offences.

Among youth accused in property crimes, the presence of another accused had little impact on the charge rate (38% for single accused, 39% co-offending), unless an adult accused was involved (54%).

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Text box 6
Geographic differences in youth crime generally reflect differences in overall crime

In 2014, the youth crime rate was lowest in British Columbia (3,071), Quebec (3,295), Ontario (3,456) and Prince Edward Island (3,459). As with overall police-reported crime, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the territories reported the highest rates of youth crime. Youth crime rates were higher than overall adult rates in all jurisdictions except in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, where rates of accused for both younger and older adults were higher than for youth (Table 9 and Table 10).

The proportion of youth charged and youth cleared by other means differs by jurisdiction. Youth in British Columbia and the territories were the least likely to be charged. In British Columbia youth were much less likely to be charged by police than adult accused (31% compared to 54%), while in the territories, the charge rate was relatively low for both youth and adults. In 2014, charge rates for youth in the territories ranged from 18% in Nunavut to 22% in Yukon. Adult charge rates were not notably different, ranging from 11% for older adults over age 25 in the Northwest Territories to 24% for young adults (aged 18 to 24) in Yukon and Nunavut (Table 11).

Differences in youth crime rates and the proportion of youth charged by province and territory partly reflect geographic differences in the volume and nature of crime. In addition, it should also be noted that the administration of the youth justice system is the responsibility of the provinces and territories. As a result, jurisdictional differences in youth crime and its treatment may also reflect differences in the administration of justice across Canada, particularly with respect to the availability of extrajudicial programs and recording practices surrounding their usage.

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Trends since the introduction of the YCJA

The introduction of the YCJA in 2003 had a notable impact on the number of youth accused entering the various stages of the justice system

The overall police-reported crime rate and the rate of youth accused of crime have followed similar downward trends since the early 2000s. Between 2000 and 2014, the rate of youth accused of police-reported crime declined by 42%, while the overall rate of police-reported criminal incidents fell 34% (Boyce 2015). Youth crime has followed a similar decline, with its highest rates recorded in 1991 (Chart 1). In 2003, when the YCJA was introduced, the overall police-reported crime rate was at its highest point since 2000, following small increases in the first years of this century (+2% between 2000 and 2003). Youth crime had also increased slightly in those years (+5%).

While the decline in youth accused of crime since 2003 is a continuation of a longer term trend, there was a notable drop in the number of youth formally charged with crime with the introduction of the YCJA. This decrease in formal charges was followed by a decline in the number of youth appearing in court and the number sentenced to custody, as increased numbers of youth were diverted away from the criminal justice system (Chart 14).Note 23

Chart 14

Description for Chart 14 Number of youth accused and charged by police, number of completed youth court cases and number of youth found guilty, 2000 to 2013
Data table for chart 14
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 14 Youth accused by police, Youth charged by police, Completed youth court cases, Youth found guilty and Sentenced to custody, calculated using number units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Youth accused by police Youth charged by police Completed youth court casesNote 1 Youth found guiltyNote 2 Sentenced to custody
number
2000 171,148 100,809 61,351 40,659 11,349
2001 178,529 102,664 61,227 39,696 10,458
2002 175,537 98,674 59,883 38,179 9,979
2003 186,041 83,055 51,452 30,890 6,825
2004 179,670 77,566 46,697 28,361 6,067
2005 172,024 74,589 46,816 28,214 5,187
2006 178,839 73,865 46,727 27,524 4,571
2007 177,400 75,630 47,372 27,518 4,408
2008 169,747 71,901 47,250 26,964 4,235
2009 167,103 69,964 46,136 25,715 3,780
2010 153,728 64,840 43,094 23,268 3,592
2011 136,494 58,358 38,340 20,732 3,140
2012 126,061 54,585 35,832 19,705 2,997
2013 105,084 47,102 31,540 16,991 2,573

Drop in the proportion of youth charged by police coincided with the introduction of the YCJA

The most immediate impact of the YCJA was on the proportion of youth charged by police. In the three years prior to the 2003 introduction of the YCJA, the percentage of youth accused who were formally charged had declined slightly from 59% to 56%. In 2003, however, the rate dropped sharply to 45% and has ranged between 41% and 45% in the years since (Chart 15).

Chart 15

Description for Chart 15 Proportion of youth charged by police, 2000 to 2014
Data table for chart 15
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 15 youth charged (%) (appearing as column headers).
  youth charged (%)
2000 59
2001 58
2002 56
2003 45
2004 43
2005 43
2006 41
2007 43
2008 42
2009 42
2010 42
2011 43
2012 43
2013 45
2014 45

One of the objectives of the YCJA was to reduce the number of youth charged and tried primarily for minor offences. This objective is clearly reflected in the 2003 drop in the percentage of youth who were charged with specific offences. The proportion of youth accused charged in a violent criminal incident decreased from 58% to 49% between 2002 and 2003; meanwhile, the proportion charged in property crimes fell more substantially, from 52% to 38%. Similarly, the proportion charged in incidents of cannabis possession (the most common drug offence) fell from 43% to 24% of youth accused. Moreover, much of the decline in charges among youth accused in violent incidents is influenced by incidents involving common assault, also considered a less serious offence.Note 24

Gradual decline since 2003 in the percentage of youth found guilty and sentenced to custody

In addition to the large drop in 2003 in the number of youth charged by police, and the subsequent decreases in the number of youth court cases (Chart 14), there was a gradual decline between 2000/2001 and 2013/2014 in the percentage of youth who were found guilty in court.Note 25 Between 2000/2001 and 2013/2014, the percentage of youth court cases resulting in a guilty decision fell from 66% to 54%. Instead, more youth court cases were stayed or withdrawn over this time period, possibly because of court referrals to extrajudicial programs.Note 26 (Chart 16).

Chart 16

Description for Chart 16 Proportion of completed youth court cases, by decision, 2000/2001 to 2013/2014
Data table for chart 16
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 16 Youth court cases with guilty decision and Youth court cases stayed or withdrawn, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Youth court cases with guilty decision Youth court cases stayed or withdrawn
percent
2000/2001 66 32
2001/2002 65 33
2002/2003 64 34
2003/2004 60 38
2004/2005 61 37
2005/2006 60 37
2006/2007 59 39
2007/2008 58 40
2008/2009 57 41
2009/2010 56 42
2010/2011 54 44
2011/2012 54 44
2012/2013 55 43
2013/2014 54 44

Sentencing guidelines are another key component of the YCJA. As such, there has also been a decline in the number of youth sentenced to custody since the introduction of the YCJA. Between 2000/2001 and 2013/2014, the proportion of guilty youth who were sentenced to custody fell from 28% to 15% (Chart 17). While there was a noticeable drop in custodial sentences in 2003/2004 with the introduction of the YCJA (four percentage points), the decrease was not as marked a change as was seen in the proportion of youth charged by police.

Chart 17

Description for Chart 17 Proportion of completed youth court cases with guilty verdicts resulting in sentence of custody, by decision, 2000/2001 to 2013/2014
Data table for chart 17
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 17 Guilty verdicts resulting in custody sentence, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Guilty verdicts resulting in custody sentence
percent
2000/2001 28
2001/2002 26
2002/2003 26
2003/2004 22
2004/2005 21
2005/2006 18
2006/2007 17
2007/2008 16
2008/2009 16
2009/2010 15
2010/2011 15
2011/2012 15
2012/2013 15
2013/2014 15

Summary

Police-reported youth crime, like overall police-reported crime in Canada, has been on the decline since 1991. In 2014, youth aged 12 to 17 were more likely to be accused of crime than adults. They were less likely, however, to be accused than young adults aged 18 to 24, especially for violent offences.

The most frequent offences among youth in 2014 were theft of $5,000 and under, mischief and common assault. While the rate of individuals accused of crime (excluding traffic) was highest at age 17 in 2014, for some offences the rates were highest at younger ages. This was especially the case for sexual offences, uttering threats and theft.

With the introduction of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) in 2003, the proportion of youth accused who were charged by police dropped substantially as more youth were dealt with by extrajudicial measures, especially for less serious offences. Extrajudicial measures include warnings, cautions and referrals to community or formal extrajudicial sanctions programs as outlined in the YCJA.

With fewer youth charged after the introduction of the YCJA, there were subsequently fewer youth prosecuted in youth court. In addition, there was also a decreased proportion of guilty youth sentenced to custody after the introduction of the YCJA.

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Text box 7
Key terminology and definitions

Accused: An accused person is someone against whom enough information exists to lay a charge in connection with a criminal incident/offence.

Age groups: Youth are aged 12 to 17. Young adults are 18 to 24 years of age. Older adults are aged 25 to 89. Accused persons and victims aged 90 years and older are considered of ‘unknown’ age, due to the possible miscoding of age within this age category.

Youth crime rate: includes youth, aged 12 to 17, accused of a criminal offence and formally charged, recommended to the Crown for charging by police or cleared by means other than the laying of a charge. Rates are calculated on the basis of 100,000 youth aged 12 to 17 in the population.

Youth Crime Severity Index (YCSI): provides a measure of the severity of youth crime. It takes into account not only the number of youth accused, but also the seriousness of their crimes, using weights based on the most serious violation’s incarceration rate as well as the average length of prison sentence handed down by criminal courts. Data for the YCSI are available in CANSIM Table 252-0052.

Cleared by charge: For an incident to be cleared by charge, at least one accused must have been identified and either a charge has been laid, or recommended to be laid, against this individual in connection with the incident. For an incident to be cleared otherwise, an accused must be identified and there must be sufficient evidence to lay a charge in connection with the incident, but the accused is processed by other means for one of many reasons.

Co-offending: Co-offending refers to those incidents that were cleared by police for which two or more accused persons were identified.

Violent offences: involve the use or threatened use of violence against a person, including homicide, attempted murder, assault, sexual assault and robbery. Robbery is considered a violent offence because, unlike other theft offences, it involves the use or threat of violence. See Table 1 for a list of selected offences in this category.

  • Homicide: includes first and second degree murder, manslaughter and infanticide. Deaths caused by criminal negligence, suicide, accidental or justifiable homicides are not included in this classification.

  • Assault (physical): refers to the Criminal Code categories of physical assault.

    • Common assault: includes the Criminal Code category assault (level 1) which includes pushing, slapping, punching, and face-to-face verbal threats.
    • Major assault: includes Criminal Code assaults levels 2 and 3:
      • Level 2assault with a weapon: involves carrying, using or threatening to use a weapon against someone or causing someone bodily harm, i.e. assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm.
      • Level 3aggravated assault: involves wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering the life of someone.
    • Other assaults: includes other forms of physical assault including: unlawfully causing bodily harm, discharge firearm with intent, using firearm/imitation of firearm in commission of offence, pointing a firearm, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, trap likely to or causing bodily harm, and other assaults.

  • Sexual assault: is classified into one of three levels according to the seriousness of the incident: level 1, the category of least physical injury to the victim; level 2, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to use a weapon, or causing bodily harm; and level 3, sexual assault that wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the victim.
  • Sexual violations against children: include Criminal Code violations that specifically concern offences involving child and youth victims. These include sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation, making sexually explicit material available to children for the purpose of facilitating sexual offences against children/youth, and luring a child via a computer/agreement or arrangement. Excludes incidents of sexual assault levels 1, 2 and 3 against children and youth which are counted within those three violation categories.

  • Other sexual offences not involving assault or sexual violations against children are included with “other violent offences”.

Property offences: involve unlawful acts to gain property, but do not involve the use or threat of violence against the person. They include offences such as break and enter, theft and mischief. See Table 1 for a list of selected offences in this category.

‘Other’ Criminal Code offences: include crimes such as disturbing the peace and offences against the administration of justice such as failure to comply with an order, failure to appear, or breach of probation.

Drug-related offences: include offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act such as importation, exportation, trafficking, production and possession of drugs or narcotics. Examples include cannabis/marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs such as crystal meth, PCP, LSD and ecstasy.

Other federal statute violations: include violations of federal statutes other than the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. These include violations of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA).

Most serious violation: Youth crime is categorized by the most serious violation occurring in a police-reported incident where a youth was accused. In incidents with multiple accused involving multiple violations, each individual in the incident will be coded with the most serious violation even if this was not the violation that the person was accused of. It is therefore possible that the most serious violation is not the offence for which the youth was accused, but one committed by another accused in the incident. Moreover, in this type of incident, any charges against the youth may be for less serious offences in the incident.

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Survey description

The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey

The UCR Survey was developed in 1962 with the cooperation and assistance of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. UCR Survey data reflects reported crime that has been substantiated through police investigation from all separate federal, provincial and municipal police services in Canada. There are currently two versions of the UCR Survey: aggregate and incident-based microdata.

Uniform Crime Reporting (aggregate) Survey

The aggregate UCR Survey includes the number of reported offences, actual offences, offences cleared by charge or cleared otherwise, persons charged (by sex and by adult/youth breakdown) and those not charged. It does not include victim or incident characteristics. Coverage of the UCR Survey in 2014 was at 99.9% of the caseload of all police services in Canada. Data from the aggregate UCR Survey are used in this report for comparisons in youth crime rates over time. Information for total youth crime is available back to 1977. More detailed aggregate data on youth crime by type of offences is available back to 1998.

Detailed data tables containing information on youth crime using data from the aggregate UCR are available through Statistics Canada CANSIM:

Table 252-0051 Incident-based crime statistics, by detailed violations, annual
Table 252-0052 Crime Severity Index and weighted clearance rates, annual

Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR2) Survey

The Incident-based UCR2 Survey captures detailed information on individual criminal incidents reported to police, including characteristics of victims, accused persons and incidents. Unless otherwise mentioned, all analysis in this report (including all data in the tables) is based on Incident-based Survey counts. Police services switch over from the Aggregate to the Incident-based Survey as their records management systems become capable of providing this level of detail. Coverage of the UCR2 Survey for 2014 represented 99.6% of the population in Canada.

The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR2) Trend Database

The UCR2 Trend Database contains historical data, which permits the analysis of trends from 2009 to 2014 in the characteristics of the incidents, accused and victims, such as weapon use and accused-victim relationships. This database includes respondents accounting for 99.2% of the population of Canada in 2014.

Homicide Survey

The Homicide Survey collects police-reported data on the characteristics of all homicide incidents, victims and accused persons in Canada.

The Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS)

The Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS) is administered by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (Statistics Canada) in collaboration with provincial and territorial government departments responsible for criminal courts in Canada. The survey collects statistical information on adult and youth court cases involving Criminal Code and other federal statute charges. Data contained in this article represent the youth court portion of the survey. The individuals involved are persons aged 12 to 17 years (up to the 18th birthday) at the time of the offence. All youth courts in Canada have reported data to the youth component of the survey since the 1991/1992 fiscal year. The primary unit of analysis is a case. A case is defined as one or more charges against an accused person or company that were processed by the courts at the same time and received a final decision. A case combines all charges against the same person having one or more key overlapping dates (date of offence, date of initiation, date of first appearance, date of decision, or date of sentencing) into a single case.

Detailed data tables

Table 1 Persons accused of crime for selected offences, by age group of accused, Canada, 2014

Table 2 Persons accused of crime for selected offences, by detailed age group of accused, Canada, 2014

Table 3 Prevalence of co-offending by age group, Canada, incident and accused counts, Criminal Code offences (excluding traffic), 2014

Table 4 Percentage of accused in incidents involving multiple accused, by most serious violation, Canada, 2014

Table 5 Proportion of accused of crime that were male, by age group and offence, Canada, 2014

Table 6 Percentage of accused charged, by age group and most serious violation, Canada, 2014

Table 7 Proportion of youth accused charged or cleared by other means, by most serious violation, Canada, 2014

Table 8 Percentage of youth accused charged, by co-offending and most serious violation, Canada, 2014

Table 9 Persons accused of crime by type of crime, by age group of accused, by province and territory, 2014

Table 10 Persons accused of crime for selected offences, by age group of accused, by province and territory, 2014

Table 11 Percentage of accused charged, by age group, Criminal Code offences (excluding traffic), Canada, 2014

References

Bala, Nicholas, Peter Carrington and Julian Roberts. 2009. “Evaluating the Youth Criminal Justice Act after five years: A qualified success.” Canadian Journal of Criminology & Criminal Justice.

Boyce, Jillian. 2015. “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002.

Carrington, Peter, Shannon Brennan, Anthony Matarazzo and Marian Radulescu. 2013. “Co-offending in Canada.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002.

Davis-Barron, Sherri. 2009. Canadian Youth and the Criminal Law. Markham, Ontario. LexisNexis.

Department of Justice Canada. 2013. “The Youth Criminal Justice Act: Summary and background.” Catalogue no. J2-375/2013E-PDF.

Farrington, David, Rolf Loeber and James Howell. 2012. “Young adult offenders: The need for more effective legislative options and justice processing.” Criminology & Public Policy. Vol 11, no 4.

Finkelhor, David, Richard Ormrod and Mark Chaffin. 2009. “Juveniles who commit sex offences against minors.” Juvenile Justice Bulletin. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

Howell, James, Barry Feld, Daniel Mears, David Farrington, Rolf Loeber and David Petechuk. 2013. “Young offenders and an effective justice system response: What should happen, and what we need to know: Criminal careers, justice policy, and prevention.” Juvenile Delinquency to Adult Crime: Criminal Careers, Justice Policy and Prevention. Loeber, Rolf and David Farrington (eds.). New York, NY. Oxford University Press.

Massoglia, Michael and Christopher Uggen. 2010. “Settling down and aging out: Toward an interactionist theory of desistance and the transition to adulthood.” American Journal of Sociology. Vol. 116, no. 2.

Piquero, Alex, Lila Kazemian and David Hawkins. 2012. “Criminal career patterns.” Juvenile Delinquency to Adult Crime: Criminal Careers, Justice Policy and Prevention. Loeber, Rolf and David Farrington (eds.). New York, NY. Oxford University Press.

Steinberg, Laurence, Elizabeth Cauffman and Kathryn Monahan. 2015. “Psychosocial maturity and desistance from crime in a sample of serious juvenile offenders.” Juvenile Justice Bulletin. March 2015. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. U.S. Department of Justice.

Sweeten, Gary, Alex Piquero and Laurence Steinberg. 2013. “Age and the explanation of crime, revisited.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Vol. 42, no. 6.

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