Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2014

by Jillian Boyce

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Since 1962, Statistics Canada has collected information on all criminal incidents substantiated and reported by Canadian police services through its annual Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey.Note 1 In addition to the UCR Survey, Statistics Canada also collects information on victims’ experiences with crime through the General Social Survey on Victimization, conducted every five years. Together, these surveys are the main sources for capturing information on crime in Canada.

This Juristat article presents findings from the 2014 UCR Survey.Note 2 In order to make comparisons across police services and over time, crime counts within the article are based on the most serious violation in a criminal incident (see Text box 1). That said, this Juristat article explores trends in the volume and severity of police-reported crime at the national, provincial/territorial and census metropolitan area levels.Note 3 In addition, the report presents information on changes in the number and rate of individual offences reported by police, including homicide, assault, robbery, sexual offences, breaking and entering, motor vehicle theft, impaired driving, and drug offences. Finally, the article looks at trends in youth accused of crime.Note 4

Police-reported crime in Canada continued to decrease in volume and severity

The police-reported Crime Severity Index (CSI), which measures both the volume and seriousness of crime in Canada and has a base index value of 100 for 2006, continued its downward trend in 2014, decreasing 3% from the previous year to 66.7 (Table 1a, Chart 1). This decline represented the eleventh consecutive decrease of the CSI, and the lowest CSI recorded since 1998 (the first year for which CSI data are available). The CSI decrease in 2014 was driven primarily by a decline in breaking and entering, and robbery.

Chart 1

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In addition, the police-reported crime rate, which measures the volume of crime per 100,000 population, also declined in 2014. The police-reported crime rate was down 3% from the previous year, resulting in a rate of 5,046 incidents per 100,000 population (Table 1b). The decrease in the police-reported crime rate in 2014 represented the continuation of a downward trend that began in the early 1990s (Chart 2). The police-reported crime rate in 2014 was the lowest rate recorded since 1969, and was 34% lower than a decade previously.

Chart 2

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Although the CSI and the crime rate are separate measures, with the CSI accounting not only for volume but also changes in the relative seriousness of police-reported crime (see Text box 1), both measures show a similar downward trend in police-reported crime in Canada since 1998, the earliest year for which the CSI was calculated (Chart 3).

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Canadian police services reported just under 1.8 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) in 2014, approximately 33,000 fewer incidents than in 2013. In addition to these incidents, there were an additional 129,500 Criminal Code traffic offences, 103,800 Controlled Drugs and Substances Act offences, and 25,400 other federal offences (e.g., Youth Criminal Justice Act) recorded by police in 2014. In total, there were just over 2 million police-reported Criminal Code and federal statute incidents in 2014, about 46,600 fewer than the year before.

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Measuring police-reported crime

In Canada, there are two complementary ways to measure police-reported crime: the traditional crime rate and the Crime Severity Index (CSI). While both measures take into account the volume of police-reported crime, the CSI also accounts for the seriousness of crime. Both the traditional crime rate and the CSI measure crime based on the most serious violation in the criminal incident (see Survey Description for more details). The most serious violation is determined by criteria in the following order of priority: violations against a person take precedence over violations not against a person; the greatest maximum penalty prescribed by law; violations causing death take precedence over other violations with the same maximum penalty; or, if the above rules do not break a tie, the police service's discretion as to which violation is the most serious within the incident takes precedent.Note 5

Crime rate

The traditional crime rate has been used to measure crime in Canada since 1962, and is generally expressed as a rate per 100,000 population. The crime rate is calculated by summing all Criminal Code incidents reported by the police and dividing by the population. The crime rate excludes Criminal Code traffic violations, as well as other federal statute violations such as drug offences.

To calculate the traditional police-reported crime rate, all offences are counted equally, regardless of their seriousness. For example, one incident of homicide is counted as equivalent to one incident of theft. As such, one limitation of the traditional crime rate is that it can easily fluctuate as a result of variations in high-volume, less serious offences, such as theft of $5,000 or under or mischief. In other words, a large decline in frequent, but less serious violations may cause the police-reported crime rate to decrease even when the number of more serious but lesser volume incidents, such as homicides or robberies, increases.

In addition to the overall crime rate, total rates are calculated for violent crime, property crime and other Criminal Code offences. Further, the rates of youth who have either been charged by police or dealt with through the use of extrajudicial measures are available for all crime categories.

Crime Severity Index

The Crime Severity Index (CSI) was developed to address the limitation of the crime rate being driven by high-volume, relatively less serious offences. The CSI not only takes into account the volume of crime, but also the seriousness of crime.

In order to calculate the CSI, each violation is assigned a weight. CSI weights are based on the violation’s incarceration rate, as well as the average length of prison sentence handed down by criminal courts.Note 6 The more serious the average sentence, the higher the weight assigned to the offence, meaning that the more serious offences have a greater impact on the index. Unlike the traditional crime rate, all offences, including Criminal Code traffic violations and other federal statute violations such as drug offences, are included in the CSI.

To calculate the CSI, the weighted offences are summed and then divided by the population. Similar to other indexes (e.g., Consumer Price Index), to allow for ease of comparison, the CSI is then standardized to a base year of “100” (for the CSI, the base year is 2006). In other words, all CSI values are relative to the Canada-level CSI for 2006. CSI values are available back to 1998.

In addition to the overall CSI, both a violent Crime Severity Index and a non-violent Crime Severity Index have been created, which like the CSI are both available back to 1998. The violent CSI is comprised of all police-reported violent violations, and the non-violent CSI is comprised of all police-reported property violations, other Criminal Code violations, Criminal Code traffic violations, and other federal statute violations. All types of CSI measures are also available for youth who have been accused of a crime (charged and not charged).

For more information on the Crime Severity Index, see Measuring Crime in Canada: Introducing the Crime Severity Index and Improvements to the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (Wallace et al. 2009), The Methodology of the Police-Reported Crime Severity Index (Babyak et al. 2009), and Updating the Police-Reported Crime Severity Index Weights: Refinements to the Methodology (Babyak et al. 2013).

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Declines in police-reported crime recorded by almost all provinces and territories

Between 2013 and 2014, both the volume and severity of police-reported crime declined across most of the country (Table 2a, Table 2b). Prince Edward Island recorded the largest drop in both the CSI and crime rate between 2013 and 2014 (-17% and -20%, respectively). With the exception of Saskatchewan, fewer incidents of breaking and entering largely contributed to the overall decrease in the CSI for all provinces and territories recording a decline. In Saskatchewan, the decrease in CSI was driven by a drop in police-reported incidents of the trafficking, production or distribution of cocaine. Also contributing to the decrease in CSI in some provinces and territories were fewer homicides, robberies, or incidents of theft of $5,000 or under.

In contrast with the decreases in other provinces and territories, Yukon’s CSI was up 11% from 2013 and its crime rate remained stable, while both the CSI and the crime rate in British Columbia increased from the previous year (3% and 2%, respectively). The increase in Yukon’s CSI was driven primarily by homicide, with three homicides recorded in 2014 compared to none in 2013. In British Columbia, the increase in the CSI was mainly the result of more police-reported incidents of theft of $5,000 or under, child pornography,Note 7 breaking and entering, and theft of a motor vehicle. In addition, Alberta’s CSI increased slightly (+1%) between 2013 and 2014, while the crime rate remained stable.

As is often the case, CSIs and crime rates were highest in the territories, followed by the western provinces. While Saskatchewan continued to record both the highest CSI (123.4) and crime rate (10,505 incidents per 100,000 population) among the provinces in 2014, the province did record declines in both its CSI (-2%) and crime rate (-2%) between 2013 and 2014. The relatively high CSI in Saskatchewan was primarily the result of incidents of breaking and entering, mischief, and theft of $5,000 or under. In contrast, Ontario (50.0) reported the lowest CSI in 2014, while Quebec (3,492 per 100,000 population) reported the lowest crime rate.

Despite some fluctuations over the years, compared with 2004, all provinces and territories have seen a decrease in their CSI (Charts 4 to 7).

Chart 4

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Chart 5

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Chart 6

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Chart 7

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Several census metropolitan areas recorded an increase in the volume and severity of police-reported crime

In 2014, 11 out of 33 census metropolitan areasNote 8,Note 9 (CMAs) saw an increase in their CSI and/or crime rate (Table 3, Table 4). Saskatoon (+10%), Thunder Bay (+10%) and Guelph (+9%) recorded the largest increases in their CSI from 2013. The increase in Saskatoon was driven by more incidents of breaking and entering, while the increase in Thunder Bay was related to an additional eight homicides. In Guelph, a rise in both the number of homicides (up from zero homicides in 2013 to two homicides in 2014) and incidents of breaking and entering drove the increase. Among CMAs, Montréal recorded the largest decline in CSI, down 9% from the previous year, and driven primarily by fewer incidents of robbery and breaking and entering.

With a 10% increase in its CSI between 2013 and 2014, Saskatoon had the highest CSI among CMAs for the first time since 1998 (when CSI data first became available). Prior to 2014, Regina had consistently recorded the highest CSI among CMAs. The high CSI recorded in Saskatoon (109.7) was followed by Regina (102.8), Vancouver (96.7) and Thunder Bay (89.9) (Chart 8). In contrast, Barrie (43.6) recorded the lowest CSI among all CMAs in 2014 despite a 2% increase, followed by Toronto (44.9), Québec (45.2) and Ottawa (45.3).

Chart 8

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Compared with a decade ago, all CMAs have seen a decrease in their CSINote 10,Note 11 (Table 3). Regina, generally the CMA with the highest CSI, recorded the largest decline between 2004 and 2014, down 55%. Winnipeg, another jurisdiction which typically records one of the highest CSIs among CMAs, also saw a large decrease (-53%) in its CSI over the same period.

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Factors influencing police-reported crime

There are many factors that influence police-reported crime statistics. First, an incident must come to the attention of police. The decision by the public to report criminal incidents to police has a considerable impact on the number of crimes ultimately recorded by police. The 2009 General Social Survey on Victimization, which provides the most recent information on Canadians’ crime reporting behaviour for selected offences,Note 12 indicated that about one-third (31%) of crimes in the year prior to the survey had been reported to police (see Text box 3 for more detail on the reasons for reporting).

Second, differences between individual police services, such as available resources or departmental priorities, policies and procedures can also have an effect on police-reported crime. For instance, as a crime prevention measure, some police services have implemented initiatives to focus attention on prolific or repeat offenders within the community. Moreover, certain crimes such as impaired driving, prostitution, and drug offences can be notably affected by a police service’s enforcement practices, with some police services devoting more resources to these specific types of crime. Some police services may also make greater use of municipal bylaws or provincial statutes to respond to minor offences such as mischief and disturbing the peace.

Third, and more broadly, social and economic factors can influence the volume of crime at a national, regional, municipal or neighbourhood level. In particular, crime rates can be affected by age demographics (Stevens et al. 2013; Carrington 2001), economic conditions (Andresen 2012; Phillips and Land 2012; Pottie-Bunge et al. 2005), neighbourhood characteristics (Livingston et al. 2014; Charron 2011; Savoie 2008), the emergence of new technologies (Wall 2010; Nuth 2008) or by Canadians’ attitudes toward crime and risky behaviour (Ouimet 2004).

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Violent Crime

Police-reported violent crime continued to decline in volume and severity

In 2014, violent crimes continued to account for about one-fifth (21%) of all police-reported Criminal Code offences (excluding traffic). There were approximately 369,500 violent police-reported incidents in 2014, about 15,000 fewer than the previous year. While almost all forms of violent crime decreased between 2013 and 2014, rates increased for the violent violations of extortion (+16%), sexual violations against childrenNote 13,Note 14 (+6%) and abduction (+4%) (Table 5). In 2014, the violent crime rate in Canada was 1,039 violent incidents per 100,000 population, which was 5% lower than in 2013 and 26% lower than a decade ago (Table 1b).

The violent CSI (see Text box 1), which accounts for both the volume and severity of police-reported violent crime, also decreased in 2014. Between 2013 and 2014, the violent CSI declined 5% from 73.9 in 2013 to 70.2 in 2014, and marked the eighth consecutive annual decrease. A decline in police-reported robbery was the main reason for the overall reduction in the violent CSI in 2014. Compared with 2004, the violent CSI was 27% lower in 2014.

With the exception of Saskatchewan, where the violent CSI remained stable, Yukon (+50%), Prince Edward Island (+3%) and Alberta (+1%) were the only provinces and territory to record an increase in their violent CSI between 2013 and 2014. The increases in Yukon, Prince Edward Island and Alberta were primarily driven by a rise in homicides. Despite the increase in Prince Edward Island’s violent CSI, it continued to record the lowest violent CSI (44.3), while Manitoba (126.9) continued to record the highest violent CSI among the provinces. Among the territories, Yukon (236.7) continued to record the lowest violent CSI compared with the Northwest Territories (278.2) and Nunavut (415.6).Note 15

In contrast with the general downward trend, several of Canada’s CMAs recorded an increase in their violent CSI in 2014 (Table 3). With eight more homicides in 2014 than the previous year, Thunder Bay saw the largest increase in its violent CSI in 2014, up 22% from 2013. Thunder Bay’s violent CSI (138.5) was well above Saskatoon (122.6) and Winnipeg (116.1), the CMAs with the next highest violent CSI (Chart 9).

Chart 9

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Homicide rate remained stable from previous year

In 2014, homicide continued to be a rather rare event in Canada, representing less than 1% of all violent crime. In total, police reported 516 homicides in Canada in 2014, four more than the year before. While the number of homicides increased slightly between 2013 and 2014, the homicide rate (1.45 homicides per 100,000 population) was virtually unchanged from the previous year (Table 5, Chart 10).

Chart 10

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Aside from Prince Edward Island, which had a homicide rate that was higher than usual in 2014 as a result of three homicides, homicide rates were higher in the West and the territories than in the East (Table 6, Chart 11). Despite a 15% decrease in its homicide rate, Manitoba (3.43 homicides per 100,000 population) continued to record the highest homicide rate among the provinces for the eighth consecutive year. The two other highest homicide rates among the provinces were recorded in Alberta (2.52) and in Saskatchewan (2.13). In contrast, homicide rates were lowest in Newfoundland and Labrador (0.38) and Nova Scotia (0.64). Nova Scotia’s homicide rate in 2014 not only represented the lowest rate recorded in recent years, but it was also the lowest rate recorded in the province since homicide data became available in 1961.

Chart 11

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With a total of 11 homicides in 2014, Thunder Bay recorded the highest homicide rate among CMAs at 9.04 homicides per 100,000 population. This rate was about triple those of Winnipeg (3.29) and Edmonton (3.01), the CMAs with the next highest homicide rates (Table 7). With four fewer homicides in 2014 than in 2013, the homicide rate in Montréal (0.97), Canada’s second largest CMA, was at its lowest point since data became available in 1981. For the second year in a row, both Saguenay and Sherbrooke reported no homicides in 2014, while Kingston and Brantford also recorded no homicides in 2014.

While the homicide rate remained stable between 2013 and 2014, the attempted murder rate declined during the same period. More specifically, the rate of attempted murder decreased 4% from the previous year, declining from 1.81 attempted murders per 100,000 population in 2013 to 1.74 in 2014. In total, there were 617 attempted murders reported by police in Canada in 2014, 19 fewer than in 2013. Though the rate of attempted murder has remained consistently higher than the homicide rate since the 1980s, these offences have often shown similar trends over time (Chart 10).

All forms of police-reported assault decreased in 2014

Physical assault continued to be the most prevalent form of violent crime in Canada in 2014, accounting for close to 6 in 10 (58%) violent offences reported by police. Police reported approximately 213,000 assaults in 2014, most of which (72%) were classified as common assaults (level 1). Common assaults have gradually been declining for more than 10 years and continued to do so in 2014, with the rate of common assaults decreasing 4% from the previous year.

Other categories of assault include assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (level 2), aggravated assault (level 3), assault against a peace officer, and other forms of assault (e.g., unlawfully causing bodily harm) – all of which also declined in 2014 (Table 5). Additionally, the combined rate of assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (level 2) and aggravated assault (level 3) – referred to as major assault – was also down in 2014, decreasing 4% from the previous year and representing the seventh consecutive decline (Chart 12).

Chart 12

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Despite a decrease in the national rate of major assault (levels 2 and 3), some provinces and territories reported increases between 2013 and 2014. Yukon reported the largest increase in the rate of major assault, up 13% from the previous year, while the increases in New Brunswick (+4%) and Prince Edward Island (+2%) were more modest (Table 6). Saskatchewan (346 major assaults per 100,000 population) and Manitoba (318 major assaults per 100,000 population) continued to report the highest major assault rates among the provinces, about double the rates in most other provinces.

Police-reported robbery continued to decrease

Continuing the downward trend seen over the past seven years, the rate of robbery decreased 11% from the previous year to a rate of 59 robberies per 100,000 population (Table 5, Chart 12). Police reported approximately 21,000 robberies in 2014, about 2,300 less than the year before.

Despite a decrease in the national robbery rate, three provinces and two territories reported year-over-year increases in 2014 (Table 6). More specifically, Prince Edward Island (+17%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (+15%) recorded the largest growth in the rate of robbery among the provinces, while the rate of robbery also increased in both Nunavut and Yukon.

Conversely, Prince Edward Island recorded the lowest rate of robbery in the country at 18 robberies per 100,000 population, followed closely by New Brunswick (19 robberies per 100,000 population). Rates of robbery were also among the lowest in Nova Scotia, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador in 2014. Manitoba, despite a 9% decrease between 2013 and 2014, continued to report the highest rate of robbery among all provinces and territories in 2014 at 119 robberies per 100,000 population. Unlike other forms of violent crime, robbery rates in the territories have generally been among the lowest in the country, a trend which continued for the most part in 2014, with the exception of Yukon.

Several CMAs saw an increase in their robbery rates in 2014 (Table 7). After recording substantial decreases in their robbery rates in 2013, Saguenay (+70%) and Kingston (+47%) recorded the largest increases between 2013 and 2014. Despite the increase in Kingston, it continued to have the lowest rate of robbery among CMAs in 2014 (17 robberies per 100,000 population). Aligning with findings at the provincial level, Winnipeg (165 robberies per 100,000 population) continued to record the highest robbery rate among CMAs in 2014, despite an 8% decrease from 2013.

Police-reported sexual assault declined in 2014

Sexual assaults, like physical assaults, are classified by the Criminal Code into three separate categories depending on the severity of the incident. More specifically, level 1 sexual assault criminalizes assault of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of a person. Sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (level 2) criminalizes sexual assault that involves a weapon, bodily harm or threats to cause bodily harm to a person. Lastly, aggravated sexual assault (level 3) criminalizes sexual assault which wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of another person.

In 2014, there were about 20,700 police-reported sexual assaults, the majority (98%) of which were classified as level 1 sexual assault.

Following the general trend seen over the past decade, the overall rate of police-reported sexual assaults continued to decrease in 2014, down 3% from the previous year, amounting to 58 sexual assaults per 100,000 population. While the rate of sexual assault decreased for all three categories between 2013 and 2014, aggravated sexual assault (level 3) saw the greatest decline (-22%) (Table 5).

Police-reported sexual assaults decreased in almost all provinces and territories between 2013 and 2014, with the exception of Yukon (+6%) and Saskatchewan (+4%) (Table 6). After a year of increase in 2013, Prince Edward Island recorded the largest decrease in the rate of sexual assault in 2014 (down 34% from the previous year), resulting in the lowest rate recorded among all provinces and territories in 2014. The decrease in Prince Edward Island in 2014 can be somewhat attributed to the fact that compared with recent years, the province’s rate of police-reported sexual assaults was relatively high in 2013, and was then followed in 2014 by a rate that was relatively low.

It is important to note that the number of sexual assaults reported by police is likely an underestimate of the true extent of sexual assault in Canada, as these types of offences are likely to go unreported to police. For instance, self-reported victimization data suggest that the majority (88%) of sexual assaults experienced by Canadians aged 15 years and older are not brought to the attention of police (Perreault and Brennan 2010).

Police-reported sexual violations against children continued to increase in 2014

While children or youth can be victims of sexual assaults (levels 1, 2 and 3), there are also a number of sexual violations within the Criminal Code that, by definition, apply only to victims under the age of 18. These specific sexual violations are categorized within the UCR Survey as “sexual violations against children”, and include: luring a child via a computer or the agreement/arrangement by means of telecommunication to commit a sexual offence against a child; sexual exploitation; sexual interference; invitation to sexual touching; and, making sexually explicit material available to a child.

The number of police-reported sexual violations against children continued to rise in 2014, representing one of the few categories of violent violations to increase from the previous year. In total, there were approximately 4,500 police-reported sexual violations against children in 2014, about 300 more than in 2013 and resulting in a rate increase of 6% (Table 5). This was primarily the result of incidents of luring a child via a computer (including the agreement or arrangement to commit a sexual offence against a child), which increased from 850 incidents in 2013 to 1,190 incidents in 2014. While the violations of making sexually explicit material available to a child and sexual exploitation recorded slight increases in the number of incidents between 2013 and 2014, the number of incidents related to sexual interference or invitation to sexual touching declined over the same period.

It is important to note that for the violations included in “sexual violations against children”, differences in police-reported statistics between geographic areas or across time may be influenced by levels of reporting to police, as well as by single incidents that include several victims. In addition, certain police services dedicate special units to investigate these types of crime, which can also impact differences by geographic areas or changes over time. Similar to sexual assaults in general, the number of sexual violations against children is also expected to be an underestimate due to compounding factors that are likely to impact reporting, such as reliance on an adult to bring the incident to the attention of police (Kuoppämaki et al. 2011; United Nations 2006).

In addition to sexual violations against children, in which information on the victim is available, the UCR Survey also collects data on accessing, possessing, making, printing or distributing child pornography.Note 16 In 2014, the number and rate of child pornography incidents continued to rise, up from approximately 2,800 incidents in 2013 to about 4,000 incidents in 2014. As a result, the rate increased by 41%, up from 8 incidents per 100,000 population in 2013 to 11 incidents per 100,000 population in 2014. Part of this increase, however, can be attributed to a proactive project initiated by the British Columbia Integrated Child Exploitation Unit which recorded Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that were in possession of, and possibly sharing child pornography.

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Measuring Crime in Canada: Police-reported data and the GSS on Victimization

In Canada, two main national surveys collect crime-related data: the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey and the General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization. The UCR Survey collects police-reported data, while the GSS on Victimization collects information from a sample of Canadians aged 15 years and older. The GSS on Victimization is conducted every five years, with national and provincial data from the 2014 survey cycle planned to be released in the fall of 2015. Unlike the UCR Survey, the GSS on Victimization also captures information on crimes that have not been reported to police. The GSS on Victimization, however, only collects information for a subset of offences – sexual assault, robbery, physical assault, breaking and entering, theft of motor vehicles or their parts, theft of personal property, theft of household property, and vandalism – and does not include crimes committed against businesses.

While both surveys are used to measure crime, significant methodological and conceptual differences exist between them and affect direct comparisons of data findings (for further information, see Wallace et al. 2009). It is possible, however, to compare trends from the two surveys to better understand changes in the pattern of crimes reported to police. For instance, for some offences, namely assault, robbery, motor vehicle theft and mischief, both surveys show similar downward trends between 1999 and 2009. In contrast, the GSS on Victimization data illustrate an increase in theft and no change in breaking and entering or sexual assault between 1999 and 2009, while the UCR Survey recorded decreases for those violations during the same time period.

Differences in crime trends between the two surveys may be partly due to Canadians’ tendency to report certain crimes. More specifically, GSS on Victimization data indicate that while reporting rates to police remained steady for the majority of offences between 1999 and 2009, reporting rates decreased for breaking and entering, household property theft and theft of personal property. Trends in the reporting of sexual assaults to police were unavailable, as the sample size was too small to yield a reliable estimate of the reporting rates for each respective year of the GSS on Victimization. Based on results from the 2009 GSS on Victimization, 88% of sexual assaults experienced by Canadians aged 15 years and older were not brought to the attention of police.

Among victims reporting to the GSS on Victimization, the most common reason for not reporting a criminal incident to police was that they did not consider it to be important enough (36%). Other reasons for not reporting the criminal incident to police included feeling that the police could not have done anything about the incident (19%), or that the incident had been dealt with in another way (15%). It is of interest to note that the 2014 GSS on Victimization was amended to include more detailed reasons for not reporting a criminal incident to police.

For more information about the results of the 2009 GSS on Victimization, see ‘Trends in reporting criminal victimization to police, 1999 to 2009’ (Sinha 2015) and ‘Criminal victimization in Canada, 2009’ (Perreault and Brennan 2010). While data from the 2014 GSS on Victimization were not available at the time of publication, the data, as well as a Juristat, are scheduled to be released in the fall of 2015.

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Non-violent Crime

Police-reported non-violent crime continued to decline in volume and severity

In 2014, most crime reported by police continued to be non-violent in nature, with property offences and other Criminal Code offences accounting for about four in five (79%) police-reported crimes.Note 17 In total, there were about 1.4 million police-reported non-violent incidents in 2014, of which approximately 1.1 million were property crimes (Table 1b). While the rates for the majority of non-violent Criminal Code violations (excluding traffic) decreased between 2013 and 2014, increases were recorded for a handful of violations.

In addition to a rise in child pornography incidents, which was mentioned previously, terrorism violations also increased between 2013 and 2014. Police reported 100 terrorism incidents in Canada in 2014, which was 29 more than in 2013. While this resulted in a 39% increase in rate, the rate remained below one incident per 100,000 population (Table 5). The increase in terrorism was primarily attributable to new terrorism violations that were added part way through 2013, in particular leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group, as well as an increase in violations related to facilitating terrorist activity.

In terms of other increases among non-violent violations, rates of identity fraud (+8%), fraud (+2%) and motor vehicle theft (+1%) also rose between 2013 and 2014.

The non-violent CSI (see Text box 1), which accounts for both the volume and severity of police-reported non-violent crime, also decreased in 2014. More specifically, the non-violent CSI declined 2% from 66.8 in 2013 to 65.2 in 2014, marking the eleventh consecutive decrease. At the national level, the decline was mainly due to a decrease in breaking and entering. Compared with 2004, the non-violent CSI was 39% lower in 2014 (Table 1a).

All of the territories and almost all provinces recorded a decrease in their non-violent CSI in 2014, with the exception of British Columbia (+6%) and Alberta (+1%) (Table 2a). The increase in British Columbia’s non-violent CSI was the result of increases in several violations, including theft of $5,000 or under, child pornography,Note 18 breaking and entering, and motor vehicle theft.

Prince Edward Island recorded the greatest decrease in the non-violent CSI in 2014, down 21% from the previous year. The decrease in Prince Edward Island’s non-violent CSI was primarily driven by fewer incidents of theft of $5,000 or under, and breaking and entering. Despite the large decrease in Prince Edward Island, it was Ontario (47.1) that continued to record the lowest non-violent CSI among all provinces and territories. In contrast, Saskatchewan (123.5) continued to record the highest non-violent CSI among the provinces in 2014, which was mainly due to breaking and entering, as well as mischief and theft of $5,000 or under.

Several of Canada’s CMAs recorded an increase in their non-violent CSI in 2014. Mirroring findings at the provincial level, all CMAs within British Columbia recorded increases in their non-violent CSI in 2014. Up 12% from the previous year, both Vancouver and Guelph recorded the largest increase in non-violent CSI in 2014. In Vancouver, several violations contributed to this increase, including more incidents of theft of $5,000 or under, child pornography,Note 19 theft of a motor vehicle, breaking and entering, and fraud. The increase in Guelph was primarily a result of more incidents of breaking and entering, fraud, and theft of $5,000 or under.

The non-violent CSI in Vancouver (103.2) was just slightly below that of Saskatoon (104.8), the CMA with the highest non-violent CSI in 2014. With a 3% decrease between 2013 and 2014, Toronto (38.0) continued to record the lowest non-violent CSI among CMAs.

Police-reported break-ins continued downward trend in 2014

Breaking and entering continued to be one of the most common forms of property crime in 2014, following the violations of theft of $5,000 or under and mischief. In total, police reported about 151,900 break-ins in 2014, accounting for 14% of all property-related offences. Since peaking in the early 1990s, the rate of breaking and entering has steadily been declining in Canada, a trend which continued in 2014 (Chart 13). Between 2004 and 2014, the rate of breaking and entering dropped by 51%, including a 4% decline from 2013 to 2014, and reached a rate of 427 incidents per 100,000 population in 2014 (Table 5). Part of the decline in breaking and entering, however, may be a result of fewer Canadians choosing to report this offence. Data from the 2009 GSS found that between 1999 and 2009, the rate of reporting incidents of breaking and entering decreased by eight percentage points (Sinha 2015).

Chart 13

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In 2014, the decrease in the rate of police-reported breaking and entering occurred in almost all provinces and territories, with the exception of the three westernmost provinces. Saskatchewan (+10%), British Columbia (+4%) and Alberta (+1%) all recorded increases in the rate of police-reported breaking and entering. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan continued to record the highest rate of breaking and entering (756 per 100,000 population), while Ontario continued to record the lowest rate (291 per 100,000 population).

Unlike the decline in the rate of breaking and entering seen at the national level, several CMAs recorded increases in their rate of this type of crime between 2013 and 2014 (Table 7). With the largest increase (up 29% from the previous year), Saskatoon recorded the highest rate of breaking and entering among CMAs in 2014 (763 per 100,000 population). In contrast, with an 11% decrease between 2013 and 2014, the rate of breaking and entering among CMAs was lowest in Barrie (202 per 100,000 population), followed by Ottawa (213 per 100,000 population).

Motor vehicle theft increased slightly between 2013 and 2014

Motor vehicle theft was one of the few property offences – and offences in general – that did not decline between 2013 and 2014. With about 74,000 police-reported motor vehicle thefts in 2014, the rate increased slightly (+1%) from the previous year, ending the consecutive annual decline seen over the past 10 years. Despite the slight increase in the rate of motor vehicle theft between 2013 and 2014, the 2014 rate was still 61% lower than 10 years earlier (Table 5, Chart 13).

The national increase in motor vehicle thefts in 2014 was reflective of more police-reported motor vehicle thefts in British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Alberta. With about 3,500 more motor vehicle thefts in 2014 than the previous year, British Columbia recorded the largest increase in this rate, up 29%. Among the provinces, rates of police-reported motor vehicle thefts were highest in Alberta (402 per 100,000 population) and Saskatchewan (386 per 100,000 population), and lowest in Prince Edward Island (52 per 100,000 population) and Newfoundland and Labrador (91 per 100,000 population) (Table 6).

In 2014, rates of motor vehicle theft increased in nearly half of Canada’s CMAs. Reflecting the provincial increase, all CMAs in British Columbia recorded an increase in motor vehicle theft in 2014 (Table 7). Up 44% from the previous year, Vancouver recorded the largest increase in the rate of motor vehicle theft among CMAs in 2014, resulting in the third highest rate of motor vehicle theft among all CMAs (388 per 100,000 population), just slightly behind that of Abbotsford-Mission (391 per 100,000 population). With a 9% increase from the previous year, Saskatoon recorded the highest rate of motor vehicle theft in 2014, at 416 incidents per 100,000 population.

Police-reported impaired driving down for third consecutive year

Police reported about 74,800 alcohol or drug impaired driving incidents in 2014, about 3,000 fewer than the year before. The rate of impaired driving decreased by 5% in 2014 to 210 impaired driving incidents per 100,000 population, representing the third consecutive decline (Table 5, Chart 14).

Chart 14

Description for chart 14

Since July 2008, under the Criminal Code, police can perform compulsory roadside checks and assessments if they suspect a driver is under the influence of drugs (Owusu-Bempah 2014; Perreault 2013). Almost all police-reported impaired driving incidents continued to involve alcohol in 2014 (97%), while a small proportion (3%) involved drugs.

Unlike the overall decline in impaired driving between 2013 and 2014, the number and rate for almost all drug impaired driving violations increased over the same period. In total, there were 2,500 drug impaired driving violations in 2014, just over 500 more than the previous year. Despite this increase, the rate of drug impaired driving (7 per 100,000 population) remained low compared with alcohol impaired driving (203 per 100,000 population). The low rate for drug impaired driving may be partly explained by the fact that determining and measuring the level of drug impairment can be more difficult and less reliable than the measures used to detect alcohol impaired driving (Owusu-Bempah 2014).

Impaired driving rates declined in every province except Nova Scotia, where the rate remained stable between 2013 and 2014 (Table 6). Nunavut was the only territory to record a decrease in its impaired driving rate between 2013 and 2014, as both the Northwest Territories (+30%) and Yukon (+22%) recorded increases.

It is important to note that the number of impaired driving offences reported by police can be influenced by a number of factors, including changes in legislation, varying law enforcement practices across jurisdictions (e.g., R.I.D.E. programs), and changing societal attitudes toward drinking and driving (Perreault 2013).

Possession of drugs other than cannabis and cocaine increased in 2014

In Canada, drug offences such as possession, trafficking, importation and exportation, and production fall under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). In 2014, there were just under 104,000 CDSA offences reported by police, representing a rate of 292 per 100,000 population. Of these offences, two-thirds (66%) were related to cannabis, primarily cannabis possession.

The overall rate of CDSA offences decreased in 2014, down 6% from the previous year. The decrease, however, was mainly the result of fewer drug offences involving cannabis and cocaine. For instance, while the rates of possession of cannabis (-4%) and possession of cocaine (-3%) decreased between 2013 and 2014, the rates of possession of methamphetamines (e.g., crystal meth) (+38%), heroin (+34%), methylenedioxyamphetamine (e.g., ecstasy) (+28%) and other substances banned under the CDSA (+1%) increased during this period (Table 5). Similarly, while rates of trafficking, production or distribution of cannabis (-25%) and cocaine (-12%) showed large decreases between 2013 and 2014, increases were recorded in the rates of trafficking, production or distribution of methamphetamines (+17%) and heroin (+12%).

While decreases in almost all provinces and territories contributed to the national decline in cannabis-related offences between 2013 and 2014, the national decrease in cocaine-related offences was primarily the result of fewer incidents in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Between 2013 and 2014, the rate of cocaine-related offences in Saskatchewan decreased 45% from the previous year, while declines in British Columbia (-14%) and Ontario (-8%) were more modest (Table 6). Similarly, the rise in the rate of other drug-related offencesNote 20 was partly explained by increases in Alberta (+44%) and British Columbia (+18%), where the largest increases in the number of such incidents between 2013 and 2014 were recorded.

Since peaking in 1991, the police-reported crime rate has decreased by half, while the rate of police-reported drug offences has increased by 52% over the same period (Cotter et al. 2015). Similarly, over the past decade, rates of certain police-reported drug offences have continued to move in the opposite direction, showing an upward trend rather than a downward trend (Table 5, Chart 14). For instance, the combined rate of possession of drugs other than cannabis or cocaine was up 67% in 2014 compared with 2004; the rate of possession of cannabis also increased during this time period, by a more modest 7%.

The general upward trend in police-reported drug offences in Canada may be related to varying policies, practices and resources available across different police services and over time. For instance, a police service’s decision to target particular offences or offenders may result in the identification of more incidents of drug-related crime, rather than representing an increase in the number of incidents that are actually occurring (Dauvergne 2009). Similarly, when other types of crime are declining, police may be able to focus more resources and efforts on crime involving drugs. Comparisons between police services or, more broadly, between geographical areas, should therefore be made with caution.

Police-reported youth crime

Fewer youth accused of crime in 2014

While overall crime statistics are based on the number of criminal incidents, police-reported youth crime is based on the number of youth, aged 12 to 17 years, accused in a criminal incident. The number of youth accused includes youth who were either charged, or recommended for charging, as well as those who were diverted from the formal criminal justice system through the use of warnings, cautions, referrals to community programs, etc. As such, the rate of youth accused – also referred to as the youth crime rate – and the youth Crime Severity Index are not directly comparable to overall trends in crime.

In total, there were about 94,100 youth accused of a criminal incident in 2014, about 11,000 fewer than in the previous year. Of the 94,100 youth accused of a criminal incident in 2014, 55% were dealt with by other means, while the remaining 45% were formally charged by police. Since the implementation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2004, the rate of youth dealt with by other means has continued to be higher than the rate of youth formally charged, although this difference has been narrowing since 2009 (Chart 15).

Chart 15

Description for chart 15

Volume and severity of crime involving youth continued downward trend

Similar to crime in general, the police-reported youth Crime Severity Index (youth CSI), which measures both the volume and seriousness of crime involving youth accused (both charged and not charged), declined in 2014. Continuing the downward trend seen over the previous four years, the youth CSI decreased 9% between 2013 and 2014, reaching 60.3 in 2014 (Table 8a, Chart 16). Compared to a decade ago, the 2014 youth CSI was lower by 40%.

Chart 16

Description for chart 16

In addition, the police-reported youth crime rate, which measures the volume of crime among youth, was also down by 9% in 2014, reaching a rate of 4,016 youth accused per 100,000 youth population (Table 8b). Compared to a decade ago, when the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) had just recently been implemented, the rate of youth accused in 2014 was 42% lower.

Decreases in youth accused of crime were seen among almost all types of offences, including some of the most common crimes committed by youth. Between 2013 and 2014, the rate of youth accused of all forms of property crime decreased, including decreases in the most common violations of theft of $5,000 or under (-4%) and mischief (-13%).

The number and rate of youth accused of some of the most serious crimes also decreased in 2014 (Table 9). For instance, 25 youth were accused of homicide in 2014, which was 16 fewer than in 2013, and well below the previous 10-year average number of 59 youth accused of homicide. The 2014 youth homicide rate (1.07 per 100,000 youth) represented a 38% decrease from the previous year, as well as the lowest rate recorded since 1984 – the year in which the Young Offenders Act was enacted, establishing the national age of criminal responsibility for youth at 12 years old.

While rates for youth accused of homicide and attempted murder have generally shown similar trends over time, the rate of youth accused of attempted murder was one of the few violent violations to increase in 2014. In total, the number of youth accused of attempted murder rose from 38 youth in 2013 to 51 youth in 2014, resulting in a 37% increase in rate. Despite this increase, the rate of youth accused of attempted murder (2.18 per 100,000 youth) remained lower than the previous 10-year average (2.25 per 100,000 youth).

Youth CSI down in all provinces and territories, except Yukon

All provinces and territories recorded decreases in their youth CSI with the exception of Yukon, where it increased 6% between 2013 and 2014 (Table 10). With a 24% decrease in its youth CSI from 2013, British Columbia had the country’s lowest youth CSI in 2014 at 38.6. Among the provinces, the youth CSI continued to be highest in Saskatchewan (165.8) and Manitoba (115.6).

While the youth violent CSI decreased by 10% at the national level, several provinces and territories saw an increase in their youth violent CSI between 2013 and 2014 (Table 10). The youth violent CSI more than doubled in Yukon (+104%) in 2014, while Prince Edward Island (+79%) and Nunavut (+18%) recorded the next largest increases. Despite a 25% decrease, Manitoba (124.4) recorded the highest youth violent CSI among all provinces in 2014.

Summary

Both the police-reported Crime Severity Index (CSI) and the crime rate continued to decline in Canada in 2014, furthering a longer-term downward trend. While the majority of violations decreased in 2014, the overall decline in the severity of crime was primarily the result of fewer incidents of breaking and entering, as well as robbery.

With the exception of Yukon, British Columbia and Alberta, all other provinces and territories recorded a decline in their CSI between 2013 and 2014. Despite overall declines, several CMAs recorded an increase in their CSI in 2014.

While almost all violent violations decreased in 2014, extortion, sexual violations against children, and abduction were among the few violent offences to record an increase, and the rate of homicide remained stable.

The youth CSI also continued to decline in 2014 with decreases recorded in all provinces and territories, with the exception of Yukon. Declines were seen in the majority of offences, including all forms of property crime and most forms of violent crime.

Survey Description

Uniform Crime Reporting Survey

The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey was established in 1962 with the co-operation and assistance of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. The scope of the survey is Criminal Code offences and other federal statutes that have been reported to federal, provincial or municipal police services in Canada and that have been substantiated through investigation by these services.

Coverage of the UCR aggregate data reflects virtually 100% of the total caseload for all police services in Canada. One incident can involve multiple offences. In order to ensure comparability, counts presented in this article are based upon the most serious offence in the incident as determined by a standard classification rule used by all police services. Counts based upon all violations are available upon request.

Each year, the UCR database is “frozen” at the end of May for the production of crime statistics for the preceding calendar year. However, police services continue to send updated data to Statistics Canada after this date for incidents that occurred in previous years. Generally, these revisions constitute new accused records, as incidents are solved and accused persons are identified by police. However, some new incidents may be added and previously reported incidents may be deleted as new information becomes known.

Revisions are accepted for a one-year period after the data are initially released. For example, when the 2014 crime statistics are released, the 2013 data are updated with any revisions that have been made between May 2014 and May 2015. The data are revised only once and are then permanently frozen. Over the past 10 years (2004 to 2013), data corresponding to previous years have been revised upward 7 times and revised downward 3 times, with an average annual revision of 0.2%. The 2014 revision to counts of persons charged and youth not charged resulted in a 0.9% increase to 2013 counts.

Measuring incidents of crime

Data from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey are used to calculate both the traditional crime rate and the Crime Severity Index (CSI). Both the traditional crime rate and the CSI are based on the aggregate count of criminal incidents. A criminal incident involves one or more related offences that are committed during a single criminal event and have been reported to and substantiated by police. Where there are multiple victims within a single criminal event, a separate aggregate incident is counted for each victim. For example, a single incident involving an assault on three victims at the same time and location is counted in the aggregate statistics as three incidents of assault.

Police services can report up to four violations for each incident; however, this has typically only been the practice since the late 1980s and not for all police services. Therefore, both the traditional crime rate and the CSI are based on the most serious violation in the criminal incident. By basing the measures on the most serious offence in an incident, it allows for historical comparisons, as well as better comparisons among police services.

It is possible, however, that by counting only the most serious violation, some offences may be underrepresented. This has little or no effect on serious violent offences, such as homicide, sexual assault and aggravated assault. However, some, but not all, minor offences are less likely to be the most serious when occurring at the same time as other more serious violations. These secondary offences, therefore, are not included in the calculation of aggregate statistics, the crime rate or the CSI.

For more information on counting crime in Canada, see Measuring Crime in Canada: Introducing the Crime Severity Index and Improvements to the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (Wallace et al. 2009) and The Methodology of the Police-Reported Crime Severity Index (Babyak et al. 2009).

Detailed data tables

Table 1a Police-reported Crime Severity Indexes, Canada, 2004 to 2014

Table 1b Police-reported crime rate, Canada, 2004 to 2014

Table 2a Police-reported Crime Severity Indexes, by province and territory, 2014

Table 2b Police-reported crime rate, by province and territory, 2014

Table 3 Police-reported Crime Severity Indexes, by census metropolitan area, 2014

Table 4 Police-reported crime rate, by census metropolitan area, 2014

Table 5 Police-reported crime for selected offences, Canada, 2013 and 2014

Table 6 Police-reported crime for selected offences, by province and territory, 2014

Table 7 Police-reported crime for selected offences, by census metropolitan area, 2014

Table 8a Police-reported youth Crime Severity Indexes, Canada, 2004 to 2014

Table 8b Youth accused of police-reported crime, Canada, 2004 to 2014

Table 9 Police-reported youth crime, by selected offences, by province and territory, 2014

Table 10 Police-reported youth Crime Severity Indexes, by province and territory, 2014

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Notes

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