Comparing homicide trends in US and Canadian Cities

Following up to my earlier post about crime trends in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, I was curious to see how the three biggest Canadian cities compare to their US counterparts with respect to homicides. The reason I focused on homicides here was because of the consistency in data reporting (i.e., it was difficult to find consistent data between US and Canadian cities on total crime, including violent and property crime).

The findings in this article show a fairly stark difference with respect to homicides and homicide rates between US and Canadian cities.

The first chart below shows total homicides annually in the four biggest US cities (i.e., New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston) since 1985 –


And the next chart shows the homicide rate per 100,000 residents for the same four cities –


What we see is a persistent decline in crime since the 1990s, with an uptick in some cities since 2014 – notably Chicago. New York City for instance has done a fantastic job in repressing crime over the last 20 years. Here is an interesting article from City Lab that speaks to crime trends in US cities.

The chart below shows total annual homicides since 1985 with the three largest Canadian cities added –


And in the next chart, the homicide rate per 100,000 residents of both US and Canadian cities is shown  –


Although it’s not a big surprise to many, it is clear from the two charts immediately above that the biggest Canadian cities are substantially safer than the largest cities in the US when it comes to homicides. Some interesting facts:

  • In 4 of the past 33 years, Toronto has exceeded 100 homicides; for Montreal it happened 6 times since 1985. Vancouver never surpassed 100 homicides
  • Houston is the only city (of the 4 largest) that has experienced less than 200 homicides annually; it happened one time since 1985 – in 2010
  • Since 1985, the 3 largest Canadian cities have never exceeded a homicide rate of 5 per 100,000 residents
  • New York is the only city analyzed here that has experienced a homicide rate of less than 5 per 100,000 residents; a consistent trend for the city since 2013













Crime in Toronto: Growing or declining?

In light of the tragic and deeply unfortunate events that took place recently on the Danforth and the Yonge Street van attack, I decided to look into historical crime statistics of major Canadian cities to see what the trends are like. The data shows that overall crime in Toronto has actually been consistently declining since the late 1990s, and per resident, our crime rate is lower than that of Vancouver or Montreal. However, it is important to note that Toronto has experienced a slight uptick in certain incidents recently.

Below are some quick charts that summarize different incidents of crime over the last 20 years for Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

Looking at total violations (in #s), we see that Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are generally experiencing similar levels of incidents annually, with a consistent decline since 1998.

Total Violations (#s)

Once you adjust total incidents by the population for each city (rate per 100,000 inhabitants), we see that Toronto experiences the lowest rate of total crime.

Total Violations (Rate per 100,000 inhabitants)

Next chart shows total violent incidents in #s (eg., homicide, assault, harassment, kidnapping, etc.). Data shows relative decline/stability for all three cities. Once again, when you look at the rate of violent incidents per 100,000 inhabitants, Toronto is lowest. But the city has experienced a slight uptick in the number of violent incidents since 2014.

Violent Incidents (#s)

Violent Incidents (Rate per 100,000 inhabitants)

Other crimes, such as traffic violations and federal statutes have been generally declining/stable over the years. Not much of a trend there.

Drug violations on the other hand show varying trends. With respect to total incidents, Toronto and Vancouver mirror each other over the years, while Montreal experiences a growing number of drug violations. Once you adjust for population (rate per 100,000 inhabitants), Vancouver sees a higher rate of drug violations than Toronto and Montreal, but shows a consistent decline since the mid 2000s.

Drug Violations (#s)

Drug Violations (Rate per 100,000 inhabitants)

Next up are annual homicide incidents since 1981. Vancouver has been stable; Montreal has experienced a triumphant decline; and Toronto sees relatively erratic trends.

Homicides (#s)

With respect to homicide rates, they have been in decline across the board, with Montreal leading the charge.

Homicides (Rate per 100,000 inhabitants)

In 2018 so far (January to July), the total number of homicides that have occurred in the Toronto CMA is 89, while for all of 2017, the total number of homicides was 92. 2018 could be another “year of the gun”, sadly…

I also decided to look at total incidents involving the use of firearms. And this is where things get a bit crazy for Toronto. What we see is a big uptick in firearm incidents since 2014 in Toronto.

Use of Firearms (#s)

Use of Firearms (Rate per 100,000 Inhabitants)

When it comes to homicides and use of firearms, Montreal has the lowest rate.

Going through the violent crime data in greater detail, I found another unsettling trend –  all three cities have experienced an uptick in sexual assaults (also includes sexual violations against children) over the last few years, with Montreal experiencing almost a consistent increase since the late 1990s.  What was particularly unsettling in this data set was the huge growth in sexual violations against children…

Sexual Assault (#s)

Sexual Assault (Rate per 100,000 Inhabitants)

Although Canadian cities are considered some of the safest big cities in the world, incidents like the Danforth shooting and the Yonge Street van attack have made Torontonians question whether the city could become more vulnerable to violent crime.  The data above shows that despite some erratic crime activity and a recent uptick in incidents in Toronto, the general trend over a 20 year period has been one of decline. Furthermore, the response and engagement of Toronto’s citizens and its decision-makers following the Danforth and Yonge Street attacks shows how dedicated this city is to ensuring these incidents remain anomalies. Hopefully they do…

For my next post, I would like to compile crime data from some major US cities to compare to Toronto. Stay tuned.


Statistics Canada, Table: 35-10-0177-01

Statistics Canada, Table: 35-10-0071-01

How Ontario and Toronto Grow (Part 2)

About a year ago I wrote an article on how Ontario’s population grows, with a particular focus on its components of growth. I wanted to expand on that article by providing data on components of growth for Toronto and the Toronto CMA, to see how they compare to the rest of Ontario. There are fantastic datasets on the City of Toronto’s Data Stats page that summarize the components of population growth for the City of Toronto, the Toronto CMA and the Province of Ontario since 2001. I decided to make a quick few charts using the data.

The first chart shows the total annual net population growth in Ontario, the City of Toronto, the Toronto CMA (outside of the City), and Ontario (outside of the Toronto CMA)

POp Growth.JPG

Ontario since 2001 grew on average by about 150,000 per year, with the vast majority of growth taking place in the Toronto CMA. What I found particularly interesting is how the net population growth of the City of Toronto has been slowly increasing throughout the years, while the net growth in the Toronto CMA (outside of the City) has been in decline. So what we see is a bit of an urbanizing effect taking place in the Toronto CMA. As for the rest of Ontario (outside of the Toronto CMA), we are witnessing a jump in net population growth in the last few years.

Now let’s take a quick look at the four key components of population growth for Ontario and the Toronto CMA. First up is Natural Increase, which is simply Deaths minus Births.


Steady as can be over the last 17 years, with a slight drop in annual natural population growth in Ontario over the last few years. And that drop has occurred in the rest of Ontario, outside of the Toronto CMA. So in other words – annual natural increase has generally been the same in the City of Toronto and the rest of the CMA over the past 17 years; while in the rest of Ontario (outside of Toronto CMA), we see that difference shrinking, with deaths significantly outpacing births over the years. In fact, you are seeing the same trend (i.e., of deaths outpacing births) across all the geographies in the chart above.

The next chart shows international migration.


Ontario welcomes about 110,000 international migrants on average per year, with the vast majority heading to the Toronto CMA. The most interesting finding from unpacking this data further is that the number of immigrants arriving in Ontario over the years has been declining, while the number of net non-permanent residents has skyrocketed lately – which is accounting for a large portion of annual migrant growth in the last few years.

The following chart shows inter-provincial migration (i.e., people migrating between provinces in the country).


What I take away from the chart above is that there was an exodus of people leaving Ontario to other provinces (namely Alberta) during the 2000s, with a reversal taking place during the last few years, largely attributed to oil prices and their impact on the Alberta economy. What I found especially interesting was how the City of Toronto saw very little out-migration over the years into other provinces.

Finally, the last chart shows intra-provincial migration (i.e., people migrating between municipalities within Ontario).


Toronto always lost a lot of people to elsewhere in Ontario, but that has rapidly declined to reach surprising stability in the last decade. Whereas Toronto experienced fewer people over the years leaving for other municipalities, the exact opposite has been taking place in the rest of the CMA, with declines in the last 3 years.  And these declines result in greater annual growth in the rest of Ontario – even though the province has always enjoyed a steady flow of intra-provincial migrants.

What could be resulting in a growing share of intra-provincial migration in Ontario outside of the Toronto CMA? High house prices is often considered a big culprit nowadays. But I also like to think that seniors generally prefer to retire somewhere outside of the City.

Some key conclusions:

  1. Immigration runs the show in Ontario when it comes to population growth; with non-permanent residents accounting for much international migrant growth lately
  2. We are seeing a bit of an urbanizing/centralizing population effect taking place recently, with more growth in the City and less in the rest of the CMA
  3. Plenty of babies are being had across all of Ontario, but # of deaths rapidly outpacing # of births outside of the City of Toronto. This could be because seniors may chose to retire outside of the City.
  4. When people leave Toronto, they often leave to go somewhere nearby in the region. Very few people leave the province or country when they leave Toronto. Shows you the sticking power of the City + region.
  5. And in the last few years, fewer people have been leaving Toronto to go somewhere else in the region, while more people are moving from the rest of the Toronto CMA to other parts of the province, including the City

Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM Tables 051-0063 and 051-0064