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.
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