February 09, 2011 – Ottawa
The Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) today released Why Canadian crime statistics don’t add up: Not the whole truth by former Alberta Crown Prosecutor and former Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association Scott Newark.
In this latest True North paper from MLI, Newark unravels the systemic complexities and shortcomings of Statistics Canada’s annual Juristat publication of “police-reported crime statistics”. He lays bare the shortcomings in data collection and presentation and asks thoughtful questions about what is working…and provides pragmatic solutions for what is not working.
“Crime is a complicated topic and there are few easy answers. But, without proper information we cannot even ask the right questions. On this central question of the state’s duty to protect its citizens from crime, Canadians are not as well served as they should be,” Newark said.
The shortcomings in the data collection and reporting are many and lead to erroneous generalisations in assessment and media reporting of Canada’s annual crime rates. There is no data on who is committing what kinds of crimes; historical data that would allow effective comparisons of crime rates over time have been eliminated; the model used inappropriately minimizes the volume (and thus the rate) of crime; data on the volume of crime have been repeatedly and inexplicably altered retroactively, and; most-serious-incident reporting and other defects in the Juristat report deny us vital information on how much crime is committed by those who have already had contact with the justice system.
While Newark assesses the defects in the Juristat report’s collection, analysis and presentation of information, he also offers suggestions for a sweeping set of reforms that would exponentially increase the value of the information that flows annually from Statistics Canada. These 18 recommendations cut across the swath of inadequacies identified and include, improved offender profiling, revisions to most-serious-incident reporting, requiring better unreported and unsolved crime information, better historical reporting and revision when methodology changes, improved specific crime reporting, and replacement of the Crime Severity Index with an objective standard.
If implemented these changes would allow Juristat to better fulfil its core purpose of giving Canadian policy-makers, opinion-leaders and, most importantly, citizens better information on which to make difficult decisions about our law enforcement and justice systems.
Commenting on the release of the study, MLI Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley said, “Scott Newark has been a credible voice on the Canadian law enforcement and justice scene for many years. There is nothing more central to a federal government than its first duty to protect its citizens and this paper is a vital first step in ensuring that both policymakers and citizens have the information they need to judge Ottawa’s performance.”