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Canada’s overall crime rate drops 8% during pandemic

Stay-at-home orders may be contributing factor: report.
Rates of violent crime and other offences have fallen steeply, a new report has found | jwebb/iStock/Getty Images
Canada’s overall crime rate decreased 8% in 2020 compared to 2019, Statistics Canada reported July 27.

And, while the pandemic may have curbed some crimes, it could have exacerbated others.

“Stay-at-home orders and other restrictions meant more people were at home for longer periods of time, while fewer people were out publicly, reducing opportunities for many types of crime,” a new report said.

However, it added, the pandemic has resulted in Canadians increasingly turning to the internet to connect with others and to facilitate work, school, shopping and health care, thus increasing the risk for different types of criminal offences online.

The agency said police-reported crime measured by the Crime Severity Index (CSI) decreased 8% in the first year of the pandemic,11% lower than in 2010.

All measures of the CSI – the overall CSI, the violent CSI and the non-violent CSI –decreased for the first time after five years of increases.

Notably, the combined volume and severity of non-violent crime, as measured by the non-violent CSI, decreased 10% in 2020. It’s the largest year-over-year change in the non-violent CSI dating back to 1998, the first year for which CSI data are available.

The change in the overall CSI in 2020 was the result of lower police-reported rates for breaking and entering (-16%), theft of $5,000 or under (-20%), robbery (-18%), shoplifting of $5,000 or under (-36%), administration of justice violations (-17%) and sexual assault  (-9%).

The CSI declined in eight provinces and one territory (Nunavut) in 2020 and rose in Nova Scotia (+8%), Northwest Territories (+6%), New Brunswick (+3%) and Yukon (+1%).

Common contributing offences to the CSI changes included breaking and entering, theft and shoplifting of property valued at $5,000 or less, robbery, fraud and homicide.

As with to the national and provincial trend, the CSI declined in 27 of the 35 metropolitan areas in 2020, led by Regina (-20%), Calgary (-17%), Ottawa (-16%), Barrie (-16%) and Toronto (-15%).

 The largest increases were in Peterborough (+14%), Greater Sudbury (+7%), Kingston (+4%), Victoria (+3%) and Halifax (+2%).

There were 28,639 police-reported sexual assaults in 2020, or 75 incidents per 100,000 population. This rate was 9% lower than in 2019 and follows five consecutive years of increases.

The rate of violent firearm-related offences increased for the sixth consecutive year, rising by 15% in 2020. Alberta, Quebec and Ontario showed the highest increases.

Most of those increases occurred in Alberta (+185 incidents), Quebec (+148) and Ontario (+132).

The overall rate of police-reported family violence was unchanged in 2020 from 2019.

The rate of breaking and entering declined 16% nationally to 362 incidents per 100,000 population in 2020.  Over the last decade, the rate has fallen 38%.

With pandemic restrictions put in place and temporary closures of many businesses or moves toward curbside pickup, the rates of shoplifting and theft of $5,000 or under fell in every province and territory and in almost all metro areas.

Robbery, which is considered a violent offence because it involves the use or threat of violence during the commission of a theft, was also down sharply.

National rates, which had remained fairly stable over the last five years, declined by almost one-fifth, declining in every province and territory except Nova Scotia and Yukon.

The full report can be found here.

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