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This study is Statistics Canada's second examination of crime data using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. The study, which was funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre at Public Security Canada, examines crime distribution on the Island of Montréal and the characteristics of charged persons' travel-to-offence patterns in 2001. Crime maps provide a visual representation of areas of concentrated crime and characteristics related to that concentration, and they can be an important tool for the development and implementation of crime reduction strategies.
The various mapping studies undertaken by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) fit into the theoretical framework of the ecology of crime, especially as regards to social disorganization and opportunities for crime. Since the 1940s, ecological studies of crime have found that crime is not distributed equally in cities; rather, it is often concentrated in specific neighbourhoods, and the route followed by the accused toward the target is relatively short and strongly influenced by daily activities. In the Canadian context, the study of neighbourhood characteristics and the distribution of crime in Winnipeg (Fitzgerald, Wisener and Savoie, 2004) showed that crime was concentrated in the city centre, which occupies a relatively small proportion of the total geographic area of that city. The results of the Winnipeg study also point to significant differences in the characteristics of high- and low-crime neighbourhoods. For instance, high-crime neighbourhoods were characterized by reduced access to socio-economic resources, lower residential stability, higher population density and land use patterns that can increase opportunities for crime. After taking into account all other factors, it was found that the level of socio-economic disadvantage of the residential population in a neighbourhood was the factor most strongly associated with the higher rates of both violent and property crime seen in some neighbourhoods.
This second study provides a description and explanation of the spatial models of crime on the Island of Montréal in relation to the social, economic and physical characteristics of its different neighbourhoods. A descriptive analysis of charged persons' travel patterns to the location of the offences, using GIS technology, is provided for Montréal for the first time. The following questions are raised in this study: How are police-reported criminal incidents distributed among the city's neighbourhoods? Is the crime rate in a neighbourhood associated with factors that are specific to that neighbourhood, such as its demographic, socio-economic, housing and land use characteristics? Is the crime rate in a neighbourhood affected by nearby neighbourhoods? What are the characteristics of charged persons' travel-to-offence patterns? These questions are explored using data from the 2001 Census of Population, the 2001 and 2004 Incident-based Crime Reporting Survey (UCR2), and land use data (2005) provided by the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal.
It should be kept in mind that this study makes use of police-reported data, which provide a specific view of the nature and extent of crime. Specifically, police-reported data measure only those crimes that are known to the police. Many factors can influence the police-reported crime rate, including the willingness of the public to report crimes to the police; reporting by police to the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey; and changes in legislation, policies or enforcement practices.
According to the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) on victimization, 34% of victimization incidents were reported to the police in Canada. Specifically, police services were informed of 31% of all personal victimizations and 37% of all household crimes. This proportion varies throughout Canada, with the percentage of incidents reported being highest in Quebec, at 40%. A similar proportion of residents of the Montréal Census Metropolitan Area reported incidents to police. However, the data collected by the GSS are not available at the neighbourhood level because the sample size does not permit this.
The Census of Population is conducted by Statistics Canada every five years, most recently in 2001. In order to achieve the highest degree of compatibility between neighbourhood characteristics derived from the census and crime information, this study draws on police and census data, both from the year 2001.