OTTAWA — Fewer crimes were reported to police in Canada in 2011 than at any other time in the last 40 years, Statistics Canada said Tuesday — a revelation that comes as political leaders wrestle with how to curb gun violence on the streets of Toronto.
Police services reported nearly 2 million incidents last year, about 110,000 fewer than in 2010, the agency reported. And the severity of crime index — a tool used to measure the extent of serious crime in Canada — also declined by six per cent.
“Overall, this marked the eighth consecutive decrease in Canada’s crime rate,” the study said. “Since peaking in 1991, the crime rate has generally been decreasing, and is now at its lowest point since 1972.”
There was, however, a reported increase last year in homicide, sexual offences against children, impaired driving and most drug offences. In particular, there were 44 more homicides in Canada in 2011 than in 2010, bringing the total number to 598.
Statistics Canada said both the crime rate and the severity index declined or remained stable in regions throughout the country. Western provinces generally reported higher crime rates and crime severity than those in the east.
The volume and severity of police-reported crime were highest in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and lowest in Ontario, where wounds are still raw in the wake of a rash of deadly shootings.
Two people were killed and 23 wounded in a mass shooting at a community barbecue in east Toronto last week.
Last month, two men died after a gunman opened fire June 2 in the food court of the Toronto Eaton Centre, one of Toronto’s most popular shopping destinations.
Statistics Canada reported decreases in several major crime categories, including attempted murder, major assaults, sexual assaults, robberies, break-ins and motor vehicle thefts.
Yukon was the only jurisdiction to report no homicides; the largest increase was reported in Alberta.
The homicide rate has generally been decreasing since peaking in the mid-1970s.
The crime severity index, which was developed to address the issue of the overall crime rate being driven by high volumes of less serious crimes, is also falling.
“Since 2001, the (index) has declined in every province and territory with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut,” Statistics Canada said.
The agency breaks down the crime severity index by type of crime and reports that volume and severity of violent crime declined in 2011 by four per cent.
Winnipeg, however, had a six per cent increase in the severity of violent crime, giving it the highest rank among census metropolitan areas.
Five other census metropolitan areas recorded increases in the seriousness of violent crime with the largest being reported in Gatineau, Que., and Guelph, Ont.
Statistics Canada cautioned that many factors can influence police-reported crime statistics, including local policing policies and various demographic, social and economic factors, as well as public perception and attitudes.