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Canadians' Use of Crime Prevention Measures
By Maire Gannon and Andrea Taylor-Butts, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada
Note: Throughout this paper, the term 'crime prevention measures’ is used generally, to refer to lifetime protective measures and routine precautionary measures.
Individuals’ exposure to crime, directly as victims or indirectly through media accounts and experiences of family, friends, and acquaintances, can vary considerably. Similarly, the way in which people respond to crime, fear crime and perceive their risk of victimization will depend on their own personal experiences and characteristics, household characteristics, and the neighbourhoods in which they live. Using the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS) on victimization, it is possible to examine the various crime prevention measures employed by Canadians to protect themselves and their property from crime.
Approaches to preventing criminal victimization may be grouped into two broad categories: crime prevention through social development, and situational crime prevention strategies. Strategies for crime prevention through social development consider the contextual factors (e.g., social, economic, cultural) related to crime and victimization and look to avert crime by eliminating its root causes (National Crime Prevention Strategy, 2002). Situational crime prevention measures include a wide range of practises and activities aimed primarily at reducing criminal victimization by limiting the opportunities for and attractiveness of criminal endeavors, and by increasing the risk of apprehension for offenders (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2000). It is the use of these situational crime prevention measures on which the GSS focuses.
In addition to looking at the types of strategies employed, the GSS is also sheds light on who is most likely to employ crime prevention measures to increase their personal safety. Results show that personal characteristics, such as sex and personal income, along with household characteristics, such as the type of dwelling, can play a critical role in determining the crime prevention strategies that people employ. However, perceived characteristics of the neighbourhood, namely perceptions of crime, have the greatest, consistent impact on overall use of prevention techniques. Those who felt crime had increased in their neighbourhood and those who believed crime was higher in their neighbourhood compared to other areas in Canada were most likely to employ crime prevention measures. Overall, these findings on Canadians’ use of prevention measures were similar to those from the previous survey conducted five years prior, in 1999.
Types of crime prevention measures
Respondents to the GSS were asked about the measures they employed in order to protect themselves from crime. These were separated into two types: measures ever used during one’s lifetime or ‘lifetime protective measures’; and measures employed regularly or ‘routine precautionary measures’.
Lifetime protective measures:
The GSS asked respondents if they had ever, in their lifetime, done any of the following things to protect themselves or their property from crime: changed their routine, activities or avoided certain places; installed new locks or security bars; installed burglar alarms or motion detector lights; taken a self-defence course; changed their phone number; obtained a dog; obtained a gun; or changed residence or moved.
Routine precautionary measures:
The survey also asked respondents if they routinely did any of the following things to make themselves safer from crime: carry something to defend themselves or to alert other people; lock the car doors for their personal safety when alone in the car; when alone and returning to a parked car, check the back seat for intruders before getting into the car; plan their route with safety in mind; or stay at home at night because they are afraid to go out alone.
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