Neighbourhood Characteristics and the Distribution of Crime in Saskatoon

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By Mathieu Charron, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

This research paper explores the spatial distribution of crime in the City of Saskatoon and the characteristics of high crime neighbourhoods. The analyses are based on data from the 2001 Census and police-reported crime data from the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR2).

This study is part of a series of spatial analyses of crime data in Canadian cities conducted by Statistics Canada using a Geographic Information System (GIS). These studies, which were funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre at Public Safety Canada, examine the relationships between the spatial distribution of crime and characteristics of neighbourhoods.

Spatial analysis of crime data provides a visual representation of areas of concentrated crime and helps identify neighbourhood characteristics related to crime levels. It 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 support an ecological view of crime, especially as regards theories of social disorganization and routine activities, or opportunities for crime. In keeping with this approach, the juxtaposition of the spatial distribution of crime and the environmental characteristics of neighbourhoods is examined to verify whether certain local characteristics (i.e., low-income and economic activity) are likely to foster crime. However, this report does not look at the individual characteristics of perpetrators or victims of crime, but rather at the environmental characteristics of the neighbourhood.

In the Canadian context, studies on neighbourhood characteristics and the distribution of crime (Fitzgerald; Wisener and Savoie 2004; Savoie, Bédard and Collins 2006; Wallace, Wisener and Collins 2006; Kitchen 2006; Andresen and Brantingham 2007; Savoie 2008) revealed that crime is not randomly distributed in cities; but is concentrated in certain neighbourhoods.

The data used are those from the 2001 Census of Population and the 2001 Incident-based UCR2 Survey. The latter data are reported by the police and provide a particular perspective on the nature and extent of crime. In other words, they cover only crimes known to and reported by the police. Many factors can influence the crimes reported to police, including the public's willingness to report crimes to the police and changes in legislation, policies or enforcement practices.

The Census of Population is conducted by Statistics Canada every five years, most recently in 2006. At the time of this study, some detailed data from the 2006 Census on population characteristics were not yet available. To achieve the highest degree of compatibility between neighbourhood characteristics derived from the Census and crime information, this report draws on police and Census data from 2001.

This report is divided into five sections. The first section provides the local context for the City of Saskatoon. In the second section, crime data in Saskatoon are presented and mapped. The third section offers a more detailed analysis of crime rates in the western and eastern sectors of the city and by neighbourhood. In the fourth section, the main factors for differentiating the dissemination areas (DAs) of Saskatoon are presented, along with the relationships between these characteristics and crime. This analysis is different from the earlier ones by its use of factor analysis to define the characteristics of neighbourhoods and specific categories of crimes (assault, mischief, break and enter, motor vehicle theft, shoplifting and other thefts) as crime indicators. The final section contains the discussion and the conclusion.

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