What is the Evidence Base for Analyzing Crime?
Notes prepared for CRM1300 by Irvin Waller (abstracted from two key sources)1 The evidence base for analyzing crime is fraught with problems, particularly in Canada, where the evidence comes almost exclusively from Statistics Canada, which provides limited data on
trends in administrative data on crime known to, and recorded by, police (Uniform Crime Reports);
rates of victimization from the General Social Survey but only every five years (GSS Victimization Survey); and
numbers and costs of policing and numbers of prisoners and costs of prisons (though, these data are provided only every couple of years and are published several years late.
Using these sources, it is possible to piece together the following evidence-based picture of crime in Canada. It is important to note that neither Statistics Canada nor the media provide this picture, but it is increasingly reproduced in one form or another in government documents such as those recently produced in Ontario (2012) and by municipal task forces. According to the Institute for Prevention of Crime (Waller, 2009), each year in a Canadian municipality of 1,000,000 persons, we can estimate from the GSS victimization survey and the costing data that there will be on average
60,000 victims of assault
16,000 victims of sexual assault, and
18,000 victims of thefts from or of cars;
The resulting harm to victims will cause tangible and intangible costs equivalent to $2.5 billion,
while police services will cost municipal taxpayers $250 million out of municipal property taxes (doubled in last ten years) and federal-provincial income taxpayers $100 million, and correctional services $180 million (and rising).
The most publicized data concern offenses recorded by the police, which are available for a 50-year period, but have major limitations because the Statistics Canada surveys show that less than 35% of victims report to the police and it is well known that not every report to police gets recorded. UK estimates suggest about 25% of offenses known to police are not recorded (Waller, 2014)
See in part Irvin Waller, "Victimology, Victim Services, and Victim Rights in Canada", Criminology: A Canadian Perspective, 8th edition, Linden, Rick, Toronto, Nelson, 2015 and Waller, Irvin, (2015) and Policing Canada in the 21st Century and Smarter Crime Control. What shifts policy to cost effective
public safety (Smarter Crime Control) http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/cntrngcrm/plcng/cnmcs-plcng/rsrch-prtl/shwttls-eng.aspx?d=PS&i=85203020.
From 2010 forward, there have been high-profile debates in Canada about amendments to the Criminal Code to increase the use of mandatory minimum sentences, particularly for gun related crimes and generally increase the minima for the most violent types of murder. In September 2011, the newly elected majority Conservative government of Stephen Harper introduced the Omnibus Crime Bill (C-10), entitled the Safe Streets and Communities Act. It covers everything from giving victims of crime the ability to sue perpetrators and supporters of terrorism, to tougher sentences for drug offenders, tougher restrictions on house arrest, youth criminal justice reforms and changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Interestingly the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) used evidence—particularly data on the number of violent crimes recorded by the police and the cost of crime to victims—to help develop and justify the Bill. The PMO stated that annually 1.3 million property crimes and 440,000 violent crimes recorded by the police (Boyce et al, 2014 gives the latest figures) , as well as $83 billion in harm to victims of crime (see Zhang, 2011 for source), justified the Bill and its specific contents.
Administrative Data from Police Services on Crimes Recorded
The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) survey collects administrative data from police services on crimes that they...
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