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Neighbourhood characteristics and the distribution of crime on the Island of Montréal

By Josée Savoie, Frédéric Bédard and Krista Collins, Statistics Canada

This research paper explores the spatial distribution of crime on the Island of Montréal and various social, economic and physical neighbourhood characteristics of this region. The analysis is based on data from the 2001 Census, police-reported crime data from the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey and land use data from the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal.

The results lend support to the notion that crime does not occur randomly in cities but is associated with demographic, socio-economic and land use factors. The research findings are consistent with those of other studies, in particular those focusing on Winnipeg (Fitzgerald, Wisener and Savoie 2004) and Regina (Wallace, Wisener and Collins 2006, forthcoming). However, in 2001 the distribution of crime in Montréal stood out clearly from that in other Canadian cities; property crime was highly concentrated in the city centre, while violent crime was distributed over various points throughout the area.

Bivariate results show several differences in the characteristics of high- and low-crime neighbourhoods. They suggest that crime is more prevalent in neighbourhoods where residents have less access to socio-economic resources. These neighbourhoods are characterized by an economically disadvantaged population with a lower proportion of highly educated people. They are also more likely to have a larger number of single persons, lone-parent families and recent immigrants, and to exhibit greater residential instability, fewer owner-occupants and a larger proportion of the population spending more than 30% of their budget on housing. Neighbourhoods with the highest crime rates also tend to have a greater portion of their land set aside for commercial or multi-family uses.

When all other factors are taken into account, a limited number of factors are found to be linked to the variation in the crime rate at the neighbourhood level. The set of explanatory factors varies in a specific way according to the type of crime, violent or property. However, three key factors are involved in both types of crime: low income, the proportion of single people and commercial land use.

The study shows that the vast majority of persons charged in criminal incidents that occurred in 2001 lived on the Island of Montréal. The results show that the distances travelled by the persons charged are relatively short, and that these distances vary with the type of offence, the age of the persons charged and their relationship with the victim. The findings are consistent with those from other countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States.

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Date modified: 2006-06-08 Important Notices
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