Measuring crime in Canada: A detailed look at the Crime Severity Index

Catalogue number: Catalogue number: 11-629-x

Issue number: 2016004

Release date: July 20, 2016
Measuring crime in Canada: A detailed look at the Crime Severity Index - Transcript

Description of visuals

Meet Emily. She just found out that she's transferring to a new city for work.

(A woman with 2 young children and a dog are standing in a room; animation transforms into the woman, her children and a dog in a city)

But before she packs up her life, she's got a lot to consider. Taxes, schools, doctors, child care, public transit – all these things matter.

(Animation transforms into a moving van, a tax form, a school, a doctor, a daycare, and a train)

Above all, Emily wants her family to feel safe, but she is concerned about the crime rate in this new city. Luckily, there is an easy way for her to figure this out.

(Animation transforms into a shield, then prison bars, then a question mark)

Statistics Canada has developed a tool called the Crime Severity Index - or CSI – that provides a way to measure changes in crime severity in Canada.

(Animation transforms into a wrench, then the words "Crime Severity Index," then the letters, "CSI," then a bar graph)

The CSI is also used by media, law-makers, and many others.

(Animation transforms into a camera, then a gavel)

While traditional crime rates measure the amount of crime in a given area, they don't account for the whole picture. This is where the CSI is different.

(Animation transforms into points of crime on a map, then a wide range of shapes and sizes)

The CSI's formula takes into account the severity of crimes as well as their volume to create an index, then tracks these changes over time.

(Animation turns into circles with numbers and lines in them)

Here's how it works:

An area's CSI is determined by first attributing a weight to each crime that police say occurred that year, and then looking at the volume of crime. A crime's weight is its severity. The weight is based on sentences handed down in Canadian courts over the past five years.

(Large weight appears on one side of scale, then many mini weights on the other side)

Let's illustrate by comparing two very different crimes: first-degree murder and property theft.

(A gun appears on one side of the scale and a car on the other; the gun has heavier weight, so the scale drops on that side)

If first-degree murder has a heavier weight than property theft, that tells us it is much more severe, even though it happens far less frequently.

(The scale shows the gun on the left side of the scale, and the car, then two, then three cars on the right side of the scale)

When you compare these two crimes, the CSI will detect an increase in first degree murder, whereas with the traditional crime rate, this increase may go undetected.

(The scale turns into a lighthouse, and a ship appears in the light)

This is the power of the CSI; it has the ability to overcome these statistical limitations and accurately gauge if serious crimes are increasing or decreasing in a certain location.

(A lighthouse converts to a pie chart and then a gauge)

So that means when Emily looks at her new city's police-reported crime statistics on Statistics Canada's website, she learns that the total annual number of crimes remained the same over the past five years, but that their CSI significantly decreased.

(The gauge turns into a bar graph with city buildings in it with lines moving upward, then dropping)

She looks even closer and sees that relatively more serious offenses, such as robberies, assaults and break and enters, had, in fact, decreased every year, which means the CSI's of her cities are nearly identical!

(3 robbers appear on-screen as shadows on the wall)

With the introduction of the CSI, Statistics Canada provides a better understanding of the changes in severity of crime in our municipalities, giving Emily - and every one of us - access to a more comprehensive picture of where we live.

(Two identical homes appear on the same road, followed by some trees and then Emily with her family)

To learn more about the Crime Severity Index, please visit

(Read leaf appears. The Canada Wordmark appears on screen.)

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