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Canadians witnessed an unprecedented decline in crime rates throughout the 1990s. Rates of crime reported to the police fell by 26% between 1991 and 2000 at an average of 2% per year (see Table A1). Property crime fell by 34% over this nine-year period and other Criminal Code offences by 17%. The downward trend in violent crime began in 1993, two years later than the drop in property crime. From 1993 to 2000, rates of violent crime dropped by 9%. These declines in the crime rate followed fairly steady increases in rates between 1962 and the early 1990s.

The decline in crime rates throughout the 1990s paralleled similar patterns in the United States (see Gannon, 2001). There has been considerable speculation in the United States and Canada as to the causes behind this downward trend. Explanations in the United States have centered on the changing age structure of the population; changing economic conditions; a change in policing style — either more aggressive or moving toward community policing; increased numbers of police officers; rising incarceration rates; dramatic changes in drug markets; and changing social values (Fox, 2000; Spelman, 2000; Eck & Maguire, 2000; Johnson et al, 2000; Rosenfeld, 2000; Markowitz, 2000; LaFree, 1999). The objective of this study is to contribute to discussions and knowledge about crime patterns in Canada throughout the past four decades by testing some of these theories using statistical modeling techniques.

Organization of the report

There are five parts to this report. The first provides a description of crime patterns between 1962 and 2003, with a particular focus on the downward trend throughout the 1990s. The second part of the report outlines policy and societal changes which may have affected crime rates in Canada. The third section examines areas where declines have not occurred, particularly in Western Canada and the North. This is followed, in the fourth section of the report, by bivariate correlation analysis and time series analysis to assess the relationships between patterns in motor vehicle theft, break and enter, robbery and homicide and a number of socio-demographic and economic trends. A description of the methods, variables and data sources used as well as the results of the analysis are included in this section. Finally, the report concludes with a discussion of limitations and implications for future research.

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Date modified: 2005-06-29 Important Notices
Online catalogue 85-561-MWE Online catalogue - Exploring Crime Patterns in Canada Main page Background Findings Tables, figures and maps Methodology Bibliography More information PDF version Previous issues of the Crime and Justice Research Paper Series