Reliability of Canada's official crime rate questioned
OTTAWA—Canada's crime rate dropped last year to the lowest point since 1972. At first glance the statistic should bring a sigh of relief from Canadian security professionals, but delve deeper into the statistics and it's clear the easy headline doesn't tell the whole story.
The crime rate in Canada peaked in 1991, and has since been on a steady decline, according to recently released government statistics. It decreased six percent in 2011 compared to the year before. Despite all this, "very few security professionals I know are breathing easy," David Hyde, a Toronto-based security consultant, told Security Director News.
That's because while the overall crime rate decreased, certain crimes are on the rise. Drug offenses increased in 2011, as did criminal harassment and sex offenses against children. Perhaps the most troubling for security professionals is the fact the homicide rate increased seven percent in 2011.
Hyde noted the several recent high-profile shootings in Canada, including the mass shooting in East Toronto earlier this month (two killed and 23 wounded), the mall shooting at the Toronto Eaton Centre in June (two killed and four wounded) and the shooting at the University of Alberta in June (three killed and one wounded). "In Toronto, for the first time ever, police are working compulsory overtime to patrol the streets in some neighborhoods," Hyde said.
So, while the new crime-rate report made headlines for its noted decrease, Hyde isn't paying it much heed and doesn't think other security professionals should either. "The reality in Canada is that official crime statistics are not a reliable measure of future crime risk when it comes to business and industry," he said. "The official statistics do not break down crime against business so we don't know which way these trends are going."
A contributing factor to the unreliability of the statistics is that many crimes are not reported to the police, Hyde said, citing a 2009 national victimization study that found only 31 percent of criminal incidents were reported to the police, while only 20 percent of women report violent victimization in the workplace and that "a whopping" 80 percent of crimes against business are not reported.
"The continuing downward trend in the national crime rate seems to have more to do with non-reporting and demographics as opposed to any real reduction in criminal incidents," Hyde said. "Security professionals in Canada won't be running out of things to do any time soon."