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A Comparison of Large Urban, Small Urban and Rural Crime Rates, 2005

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By Joycelyn Francisco and Christian Chénier, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

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Canada’s population continues to become more urban. The share of urban population in Canada increased from 76% in 1986 to 80% in 2006.1  The census metropolitan areas (CMAs), the largest urban areas, comprised 61% of the total Canadian population in 1986 and 68% in 2006.2

Some researchers claim that urbanization brings significant socio-economic changes which in turn may lead to greater societal problems such as increased crime.3  Thus, there may be a general perception that crime rates are higher in large urbanized areas than in smaller areas and that the use of firearms in the commission of crimes is also higher in large urban areas.

For the first time, police detachments in Canada have been classified into large urban, small urban or rural according to their boundaries and resident population. Using these groupings, this report looks at overall police-reported crime rates in 2005 and four offence-specific rates: homicide, robbery, breaking and entering (B&E), and motor vehicle theft.

Victimization data from the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) are also examined where appropriate. In particular, the study looks at perceptions of safety from crime among the urban and rural population and precautionary measures taken by residents.


  1. Statistics Canada, Censuses of Population, 1901 to 2006.

  2. Statistics Canada, 2006 Census, Analysis Series.

  3. Feld, Barry C. (1991). “Justice by Geography: Urban, Suburban and Rural Variations in Juvenile Justice Administration.” The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Vol. 82, no.1.

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