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This research paper explores the spatial distribution of crime in the cities of Edmonton, Halifax and Thunder Bay and various social, economic and functional neighbourhood characteristics of these cities. The analyses are based on data from the 2001 Census, police-reported crime data from the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey and land use data.
The research findings on Edmonton, Halifax and Thunder Bay show that crime is not distributed randomly in urban areas but is somewhat concentrated in certain neighbourhoods. These findings also highlight differences between the characteristics of high- and lower-crime neighbourhoods. These differences can be grouped under three major dimensions: demographic, socio-economic and functional.
When all other factors in this study are held constant, a limited number are found to be linked to variations in the crime rate at the neighbourhood level. The three major dimensions are represented as factors in the explanatory models, and they illustrate the regional distinctiveness of each city. Thus, the set of explanatory factors varies in a specific way according to the city that is being studied and to the type of crime—violent or property.
In Edmonton in 2001, when all neighbourhood characteristics available in the framework of the study are held constant, three characteristics contribute to the explanation of variations in the violent and property crime rate: the proportions of lone-parent families, people with no high school diploma and the number of workers in retail trade (as an indicator of commercial land used). The rates of violent and property crime, then, are higher in neighbourhoods where there is a greater proportion of people with these characteristics. The rate of violent crime is also higher in neighbourhoods where there is a higher proportion of people in a low-income situation. However, the rate of property crime is lower where there is a larger proportion of children less than 15 years of age, which tends to occur, in residential neighbourhoods with a higher proportion of owner–occupants and single-family homes.
In Halifax, when all other study characteristics are taken into account, results indicate that several characteristics linked to variation in neighbourhood crime rates are different in areas north-east of Halifax Harbour than in areas south-west of the harbour. In fact, violent crime rates north-east of the harbour are higher in neighbourhoods with larger proportions of commercial zoning and populations with lower levels of education. In the area south-west of the harbour, violent crime rates are higher in neighbourhoods where more people live alone, and the housing situation is poor, as indicated by the proportion of houses in need of major repairs. However, violent crime rates on either side of the harbour are higher in neighbourhoods with more single-mother families. These families tend to be living in low-income situations.
Property crime rates in the north-east area of Halifax Harbour are higher in neighbourhoods with more commercial zoning and higher rates of unemployment. On the south-west side of the harbour, a neighbourhood's property crime rate increases with higher proportions of people spending more than 30% of their income on housing, as well as higher median household incomes.
In Thunder Bay, when all the other study characteristics are taken into account, violent crime rates are higher in neighbourhoods with higher proportions of people who are single, have limited access to economic resources, are living in low-income households and where the percentage of revenue from government transfer payments made up the greatest proportion of their revenue. Property crimes are higher in neighbourhoods with higher proportions of people whose percentage of revenue from government transfers was higher, who are single, and who are living in buildings built before 1961.
These results suggest that strategies to combat crime could be based on the region's demographic, socio-economic and land-use situations. When developed according to the needs of a given city—i.e., its history and the opportunities available to communities in various neighbourhoods—the strategies will be more likely to achieve their objectives.
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