Thursday, July 21, 2011

Evan Soloman Needs A Lesson On Crime Rates

Evan Soloman needs to learn the difference between a crime "rate" (per 100,000 people) and total volume of crimes. If you are going to have a debate about expanding prison capacity, you should not be citing crimes per 100,000 but rather total number of crimes. Why? Because our population grows by about 350,000 people every year, nearly doubling in size since 1962. Evan's big question today was if crime rates are declining, why would we spend money expanding prison capacity? First, let's disregard all the reports about how dangerously overcrowded our prisons currently are and just look at crime rates versus crime volume. I downloaded the same Statistics Canada data that Evan used (although he focused mostly on the last two years). For your viewing pleasure, I prepared two different charts comparing violent crime rates versus total number of crimes since 1991 and fit a trend line.

Oh my Lord, what kind of crazy Voodoo magic is this??? Simple answer, the violent crime rate has fallen by 15% since 1991. Great news right? Sadly, our population has grown by 19% over that same time period. You might have a smaller percentage of people committing crimes, but because our population keeps growing we actually have more criminals. What was Evan's question of the day today? You have to love how he started with "given dropping crime rates", because that's not a leading question at all...

Given dropping crime rates, should money pegged for prisons and the government's tough on crime agenda, be spent on other priorities?

yes 79%
no 19%
unsure 2%

Total Votes: 438

All that being said, the TOTAL number of violent crimes has fallen consistently every year since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, so they must be doing something right in their tough on crime agenda. It is working. If what the Tories have been doing has been working, why would we change course now?


  1. Great graphs! Maybe you should send them to Evan, he might even be able to understand pictures better than graphs.

  2. Cripes , ive stopped watching the CBC since i can pick up any newspaper in the malls or transit system and i know im reading much of the left wing slant anyways.

    The tough on crime is working and increased police patrols makes a difference.

    I have nothing but respect for the cops especially in York region who have always been helpful to me personally.Whether its because i lost my wallet, or actually taking me home since i had way too much to drink and i was walking all over the road.The cop could have thrown me in the tank for the night but i had enough sense to have my ID on me.

    Amen to York Region police, thank you!


  3. Ironically, the TOTAL number of Canadian violent crimes fell by 13,000 in the first term of Jean Chretien, then rose by 19,000 by the first term of Stephen Harper. They have been dropping ever since. Christ, if we stay on the Harper "tough on crime" course, we might not even need prisons by 2030....

  4. As I commented at a Globe and Mail article yesterday ...

    A few questions for the author of this article. Ms. Mahoney states:
"There were 554 homicides in 2010 ..."

    Does that figure include this recent notorious Quebec case?

    "Quebec cardiologist found not criminally responsible for stabbing kids to death"

    Some people, including the article's author, appear to scoff at the need for tough-on-crime legislation and laugh at the notion of unreported crime. The case cited above as well as other similar cases is what prompts me to ask questions. Dr. Turcotte has been deemed "not criminally responsible" by a jury. Wrongly, in my opinion, but that is merely my opinion.

However, this case brings up some relevant questions:

    • Is this case included in the StatsCan figures under "crimes"? 

    • Should what Dr. Turcotte did be considered a crime or not?

    • What is the current definition of crime, that which determines whether it's included in StatsCan figures?

    Of course, the usual suspects who populate sites like the Globe & Mail think a case like the one I alluded to doesn't (possibly) skew the lower crime rate stats AND doesn't justify building new prisons or renovating old ones. I still maintain my questions are legitimate. If some deeds which were once considered "crimes" are no longer considered as "crimes" then inevitably the tally of "crimes" goes down, doesn't it? And if people don't report crimes like theft because they figure nothing will happen, those deeds are also not included in the stats, are they?

    To his credit, Solomon feebly attempted to point out the Conservatives have budgeted millions for rehabilitation, but he was quickly drowned out by the opposition MPs (one of whom called Solomon "Kevin" instead of Evan). Solomon usually uses the line "to be fair ..."
    -- Gabby in QC

  5. The latest article by Gloria Galloway starts with:

    "New statistics show the national crime rate is continuing its 20-year decline – reaching levels not seen since 1973 even as the federal Conservative government prepares legislation that would put more Canadians behind bars for longer periods of time.

    It is a juxtaposition of politics and reality that has prompted critics to accuse the government of ignoring facts at taxpayers’ expense as it pursues a criminal-justice agenda focused on punishment rather than prevention."

    Her article does not make any mention of the difference between crime "rates" and total number of crimes. Again people, crime rates are moot when discussing expanding prison capacity. We need to look at total number of crimes given our population growth rate.

  6. Well said, Iceman! Very good post!

  7. I’m not quite sure I understand your point about crime rates vs. actual number of crimes, Iceman. Math was never my strong point. But in the Galloway article -- which strangely was posted yesterday with the byline “Jill Mahoney” -- these facts are given:
    “Statscan highlights
    • There were 554 homicides, down 56 from the year before. The decline in the homicide rate was largely driven by a decrease in British Columbia, where the rate hit an all-time low.
    • There were 693 attempted murders last year, down from 801 in 2009. This resulted in the lowest level in more than 30 years. …”

    Wouldn’t one expect an increase in population would equal an increase in actual numbers of crimes? But that doesn’t appear to be the case.

    OK, so both Galloway & Mahoney don’t differentiate between rate & actual numbers, like you do. But according to StatsCan, the actual number of homicides decreased, so consequently Galloway, Solomon & others point to crime rates declining. I’m not defending their conclusion that the tough-on-crime legislation is not needed and that money shouldn’t be spent on jails.

    What I AM arguing is this: I want to know whether all infanticides, for example, committed for whatever “reason” were included with the number of crimes committed 30 years ago and whether all infanticides, for whatever “reason”, are similarly included in the 2006 to 2010 numbers. In other words, maybe some deeds that were considered crimes years ago are no longer considered crimes, so of course rates and actual numbers seem to be decreasing.

    Stockwell Day’s “unreported crimes” statement may have drawn guffaws from his opponents, but I think he made a lot of sense.
    -- Gabby in QC

  8. For someone to pose a cogent question, or answer one, it is first necessary that they have an IQ that is greater than their age. In Soloman's case this evidently not so.

  9. Gabby, the total number of violent crimes rose for most of the last 20 years and only started to fall in 2007 when the Tory tough on crime agenda began becoming law. Ergo what Stephen Harper has been doing is producing early results and if this trend continues then it should reduce the number of criminals in cells over the next decade. Hopefully. We just need to allow the Tory crime agenda to move forward, especially now that we have a majority.

  10. Thanks for your reply. I hope you're right that the Conservatives' tough-on-crime stance is what is driving the decrease.
    -- Gabby in QC