Analysis of the spatial distribution of crime in Canada: Summary of major trends

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

By Josée Savoie, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

This paper summarizes the major trends in the series on the spatial analysis of crime conducted by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) using geographic information system technology in Canadian cities. The main purpose of this analytical series, which was funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre at Public Safety Canada, was to explore the relationships between the distribution of crime and the demographic, socio-economic and functional characteristics of neighbourhoods.

In particular, the following questions were addressed in these crime diagnostic studies: How are police-reported criminal incidents distributed across city 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 influenced by nearby neighbourhoods? These questions were explored using data from the 2001 Census of Population, the Incident-Based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR2), and land use data provided by the various cities.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the socio-economic performance of various Canadian communities (Heisz 2005; Alasia et al. 2008). Today, it is generally acknowledged that communities have different characteristics that determine their social development potential. This paper summarizes the major crime patterns in several Canadian cities based on socio-economic, dwelling and city-zoning characteristics. These diagnostic studies were conducted in seven cities: Edmonton, Halifax, Regina, Montréal, Saskatoon, Thunder Bay and Winnipeg. Evidence was obtained with a view to developing crime prevention policies and strategies. Consequently, these research results will be useful in targeting efforts, demonstrating the diversity of crime prevention approaches available, and fostering the creation of partnerships among key stakeholders.

The first section of this paper explores the trends in the spatial distribution of crime in the seven participating cities. The main similarities and differences in the spatial distribution of crime in Canadian cities are identified. The second section looks at the major risk factors, or the demographic, socio-economic and functional characteristics associated with differences in crime rates among neighbourhoods in the various cities. The results of the thematic issues addressed in the analytical series are presented in the third section. These issues relate to spatial variations in crime by time of day; distances travelled by persons charged; youth crime rates; the relationship between crime rates and the Aboriginal population; and variations in crime and neighbourhood characteristics over time. The fourth section of this paper presents the main conclusions and potential for analysing crime in the Canadian context in the future, while the last section briefly sets out the data sources and some of the methodology used in our analyses in this series.