August 2, 2011 - In today's National Post, Scott Newark discusses StatsCan's recently released report on 2010 crime data in Canada. In the article, "Let's be honest about crime", Newark examines the "crime is down" message in the report and highlights a number of improvements as well as areas that still require further information.
On improvements to the report, Newark writes:
There have been improvements in explaining what is being reported. Those changes include information on the practice of youth diversion, on why and how crime data is retroactively revised, on what's included in the numbers on "impaired driving" and some increased historical data for youth crime. StatsCan is to be congratulated for these changes, which were implemented in a very short time frame.
These improvements mirror suggestions made last year, when the Macdonald-Laurier Institute published my detailed analysis of 2009 crime statistics. We took special care to focus on contradictory crime "highlights" not emphasized by StatsCan, as well as on the methodology used by the agency to gather, analyze and then report on this gold mine of relevant information. We also made a series of very precise recommendations to improve the accuracy, clarity and relevance of the report. They included the critical need to detail the criminal profile of exactly who was committing specific crimes and to restore longer-term crime comparisons, inexplicably deleted from the report in 2008.
On recommendations for StatsCan, Newark describes four key methodology reforms that "need to be led by the police community, all of whom have expressed an interest in improving the relevance of the report":
- Replacing the subjective and conveniently vague Crime Severity Index with objective, charge-based data;
- Recording all reported crime and identifying unsolved serious crime;
- Adding age and demographic information to crime rate reporting; and</>
- Modifying charge categories to increase relevance.
Newark concludes, "We don't need to be 'tough' or 'soft' on crime; we need to be honest about crime, so we can be smart about fighting it. Hopefully, through improved reporting of crime statistics, we are on the road to doing exactly that."
Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown prosecutor and executive officer of the Canadian Police Association. He is the author of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute's recent study Why Canadian Crime Statistics Don't Add Up: Not The Whole Truth.
To read the full National Post article, click here.
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