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By its very nature, crime is difficult to measure. Where there is no obvious or immediate victim, crimes can go undetected. Many crimes are not reported, most often because victims do not think they are important enough to bring to the attention of police.

Further, it is not just the amount of crime occurring that is of interest, but also factors such as its changing nature and the impact it has on individuals, families and communities. This makes it virtually impossible for any one statistic or source of information to adequately address all aspects of the issue.

In Canada, as in many other countries, the nature and extent of crime is monitored using two distinct sources of information. The first comes from crimes that are reported by police through the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) survey, which began collecting data in 1962. The second source is victimization data collected through the General Social Survey since 1988. Its main objective is to collect data on the experiences of Canadians with crime.

The first section of this report introduces a new measure of police-reported crime, the Crime Severity Index. The second section discusses the strengths and limitations of police-reported data and victimization data and presents an historical overview of crime trends as measured by these two instruments. The third outlines recent changes to police-reported crime statistics, including the way certain offences are counted and improvements to the way these statistics are displayed.

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