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."

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7 Comments, RSS

  • Clayton O'Bear

    says on:
    February 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I look forward to the publishing of your report on the effects of mandatory minimums, and tough on crime legislation. I'm sure Mr. Gingrich would be happy to explain that to you. I also would like to see a study on the costs of tough on crime legislation including the cost to social services caring for the children of the tens of thousands to be jailed for growing 6 plants or giving a friend a Tylenol 3 within a block of a school or stadium (nearly every inch of every community).

    Or perhaps you could study the effect of this report on crime rates, since supporting tough on crime legislation will make people growing six plants indebted to hardened criminals for protection inside our prisons. I am disappointed with the timing of this report, if you are so concerned about the quality of statistics why was your silence on the mandatory long form so deafening.

  • Clayton O'Bear

    says on:
    February 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Nearly everyone in my generation refuses to report a neighbor they suspect of selling drugs not because we fear it won't be solved, but rather because we don not wish to have the justice system destroy their lives if it is only pot they are selling. Drug crimes aren't reported in Canada be cause we despise these laws and are fully aware of marijuana benign nature and the governments double standard on alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. So again the problem isn't the reporting or the statistics it's the laws and the right wings refusal to accept scientific facts or face their own Hypocrisy.

  • Plenty O'Tool

    says on:
    February 10, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    You have absolutely no understanding of the basic techniques involved in interpreting crime stats. There are several academic schools dedicated to this field of study. Why are there no Criminologists on the advisory council? Because they would have straightened out most of the elementary errors you made. I look forward to this study being torn to pieces by the experts in the field (the actual expert, that you declined to consult).

  • Brent

    says on:
    February 10, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    This article is a pure opinion piece by a person who appears to have little or no understanding of statistics but a decided bias toward tough on crime.

    Putting our pieces like this - a piece which should have been reviewed by statisticians - as an authoritative document, turns your think tank into a mere megaphone for the looney right tough on crime nut bars.

  • Barry MacLeod

    says on:
    February 15, 2011 at 11:49 am

    I heard Scott Newark on CBC Radio this morning on the Current. His childish concluding remarks spoke volumes.
    I did a bit of research on Mr. Newark and was not surprised to find this:
    http://bcinto.blogspot.com/2008/07/what-ctv-didnt-tell-you-about-scott.html

  • Devin

    says on:
    February 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Mr. Newark has some reasonable points, but the sloppiness of both his research and conclusions in this paper is obvious and embarrassing. The study has clearly been produced to service a pre-existing ideology and shows the MLI is not a serious place for public policy consideration.

  • Bob

    says on:
    March 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Mnay of Newark's points are erronious or biased. It is obvious he came up with his conclusion beforehand and wrote his article around it.

    The fact that unreported crime is up? Well that was proven by a survey, which is really as solid as the Juristat, so by his methodology, it isn't solid at all.

    The CSI is a measure of punishment, not crime in general, like he tells it to be. Anyone can look at the definition of the CSI and come up with a million definitions, but almost anyone will involve the word Punishment. His definition barely does.

    Also, the report states that Jursistat does not state who commited the crime or if they are a repeat offender. With all due respect (which really is very little) that really does not matter. Unless the repeat offense accounts to their sentencing or crime, then what does it matter if it is a repeat offender or a new guy?

    Also, he sepcifies that the crime rate has risen since 1962. I thought he said we cant compare our crime rate to theirs since it was too different? Am I mistaken, or is that hypocracy I smell?