Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Aug.  9, 2010)

Straight talk on crime rate

  By John Martin


Evan Erar, the American humourist, once referred to statistics as "the only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions." Famed hockey coach Scotty Bowman was probably more to the point when he claimed, "statistics are for losers."

In any event, it must be a slow news cycle because statistics are dominating the media these days. Statisticians and the country's journalists have blown a gasket about the government's plans to modify the way data is collected in the long form census. On the upside, things must be going pretty nice if changes to the census is being talked of as a national crisis.

Apparently the folks working at Statistics Canada are taking the news so hard that morale is in freefall. Hey guys, if things are so tough, you can always walk away from your government protected job for life, guaranteed pension, 17 bankable sick days a year and give it a go in the private sector.

But the bigger controversy around statistics is the recently released so-called "crime rate" and what, if anything, it actually means.

Once again, Abbotsford-Mission was given the dubious distinction of being Canada's murder capital; a claim so ludicrous that it doesn't even warrant discussion.

Something that does require further analysis, however, is the conclusion from Statistics Canada that crime rates are in decline. According to the official numbers, there were 920 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2009 compared to 936 in 2008. While this may be encouraging, it's critical that we remember these numbers only refer to crimes reported to police. There are several indicators that fewer people, for a variety of reasons, are willing to report criminal victimization than in the past.

Nonetheless, according to the federal Liberals, academics, and a host of other apologists for the criminal class, this is irrefutable evidence that crime is no longer a concern and the government's plans to crack down on violent, repeat offenders should be immediately disposed of.

OK, let's all pretend that the reported meager decline from 2008 to 2009 is 100 per cent accurate. Even if that was the case, it still must be noted that violent crime is more than 300 per cent higher than it was in 1962 when we started collecting such statistics. Similarly, while the soft-on-crime brigade never misses an opportunity to note that property crime has also been declining in recent years, they strategically fail to mention that it's still almost 60 per cent higher than was the situation in 1962.

If we throw it all together we see that Canada's official overall crime rate decreased from 6,615 offences per 100,000 population in 2008 to 6,406 in 2009. But that's still more than twice the 1962 rate of 2,771 reported crimes. So why isn't this all important fact being reported?

Probably no single constituency is more negligent and reckless in this deliberate oversight than the country's criminologists. It seems every journalist across the land has the same dozen criminology "experts" in their list of contacts they always turn to for insightful commentary each year when Statistics Canada releases the official crime rate numbers. Like clockwork, they rattle off the latest stats as absolute proof that the Conservative's "get tough on crime" agenda is ill-advised and assure us there's no crime problem whatsoever. Without exception, every criminologist quoted in the major media following the release of the latest numbers showing a three per cent decline in overall crime, avoided making a long term comparison to the situation in 1962.

It would seem, for this crew, opposing a Conservative government is much, much more important than even a semblance of integrity.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2010