Counting Crimes

Macleans has come out with crime ratings for various municipalities in Canada so naturally everyone is looking to see where their home base placed in the rankings. Halifax is in the top tier placing a dubious seventh. Kings County places down the list at 75th out of a 100 , a rate 54% less than the national average. We suppose this gives some people comfort but- as we said to one of our commenters who quoted statistics that crime rates were dropping- the average person has one breast and one testicle. Statistics are like ultrasounds- no good unless you know how to read them – and think about them.

First thing to note is that these rates are for 2007, two years ago, and one should always think about the methodology:

Maclean’s obtained annual crime data from Statistics Canada for municipal police services with the 100 largest populations in the nation. Using 2007 rates per 100,000 population for six crimes—homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, vehicle theft, robbery plus breaking and entering—Maclean’s calculated the percentage difference from the national rate for each of the six crimes. In consultation with StatsCan, we gave each crime equal weights and standardized the rates to obtain an overall score that measured each area’s percentage difference from the national rate. Data from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are excluded from the provincial and territorial score calculations due to their extreme crime rate values, which are inconsistent with the distribution of the rest of the country.

So they left out two areas of high crime rates from the rankings because they feared they would skew the rankings and make the average look worse than they thought it deserved. Also, of course, the study depends on REPORTED crime. Unreported crimes are not included. So if one municipality has a high reportage rate of one type of crime (say rape) its ranking could look worse than a municipality where reporting rape is problematical.  And lesser crimes like vandalism, arson and petty thefts are also left out.

So are these rankings any use? If Macleans continues to do them year after year there MIGHT be some value in seeing differences over time.

Using this set of rankings one can ask – how do Halifax and Kings Co compare to municipalities of comparable size. Halifax City shows a much higher crime rate than Windsor, Ont. which is of similar size. It shouldn’t take much pride, however, in being better than Saskatoon and Winnipeg which rank number 1 and 2 on the danger list. We could do better.

Kings Co. appears to do better compared to municipalities like Fort McMurray and Fredericton but worse than places like Oromocto NB, S. Simcoe Co., Middle sex Co.,  and Petrolia in Ont. We could do better.

There are more populous municipalities than Kings Co. that seem to have much lower crime rates, such as Caledon, Halton and York Regions in Ont. and even Halifax Co. in NS.  So we don’t think our police forces can be very complacent. We could do better.

2 responses to “Counting Crimes

  1. Keep in mind that the ranking does not include most crimes reported to police. In the case of the city where I’m based, Kingston, Ontario, our Macleans ranking of 60th is based on 1,112 of the total 7,966 crimes reported here in 2007. So our rank is based on just 14% of all crimes reported.

    Also, many cities that deserve individual rankings because of size aren’t ranked individually because it’s a ranking of largest police services, not largest cities.

    For more:

  2. Absolutely agree that this ranking use is very limited. Several reports have been telling us that crime is down but our experience and that of others tell us otherwise.