Northern Economist 2.0

Showing posts with label homicides. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homicides. Show all posts

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Homicide Rates for 2017: Canada (and Sudbury) Up but Thunder Bay Down

Well, with all the excitement about the Federal Fall Economic Statement yesterday, the release by Statistics Canada of the 2017 homicide numbers flew in somewhat under the media radar.  According to Statistics Canada, the homicides in Canada hit its highest rate in almost a decade in 2017 with much of the increase attributed to more firearm-related and gang-related incidents. The firearm-related homicide rate increased 18 percent from 2016 to 0.72 per 100,000 population—the highest rate since 1992. Police reported 660 homicide victims in Canada in 2017, 48 more than in 2016. The homicide rate rose 7 percent in 2017 to 1.80 victims per 100,000 population—the highest level since 2009.  It would appear that the upward increase in homicide rates was driven by British Columbia and Quebec.



What is also of interest is the homicide rate by CMA for 2017 as shown in Figure 1.  In 2017, the homicide rate per 100,000 ranged from a high of 5.8 in Thunder Bay to a low of 0 in Saguenay.  Greater Sudbury came in close to the bottom at 0.61.  The good news for Thunder Bay is that the homicide rate for 2017 is down from 2016 when it stood at 6.62 per 100,000.  The bad news is if one takes the average homicide rates for all CMAs for the period 2006 to 2016 (see Figure 2)  Thunder Bay also ranks the highest at an average of 4.04 per 100,000, just ahead of Winnipeg at an average of 3.69. As for Sudbury, its homicide rate is up from last year - when it stood at zero - but given the rankings there does not seem to be that much to worry about there.

Needless to say, despite an improvement in 2017 Thunder Bay still has work to do.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Thunder Bay Municipal Election Issues: Crime

The October 22nd municipal election in Thunder Bay should start heating up as we move into the final four weeks of the campaign.  There are indeed quite a few campaign signs sprouting up and in a sign that the race has intensified there is even some campaign sign vandalism.  On the one hand, having a large number of candidates should make for an interesting race but on the other hand with so many candidates, any real debate is going to be unwieldy to manage and I expect the final outcomes will largely favour incumbents with name recognition.  This means that despite what seems to be an enormous appetite for change, there will be very little come the day after October 22nd.  Still, one would be remiss on not trying to highlight some of the issues.

In my August 8th post, I did a brief summary of what the main issue categories  in the coming election should be and today I want to focus on one specific issue in particular – crime in Thunder Bay.  There is a lot of social media discussion as well as media reporting on crime in Thunder Bay and also a lot of informal chatting among people and concerns have been expressed about what seems to be substantial drug driven gang activity.  There are also statistics that measure crime and Statistics Canada has reported recently that Thunder Bay in 2017 leads Canadian cities in their murder rate for a second year in a row.

The police response to this news by the Acting Police Chief acknowledged the high homicide rate but the media report also noted that “Despite having the highest murder rate per capita for Canadian metropolitan areas and the second highest in terms of severe crimes, the overall crime rate in the city of Thunder Bay is down.”  The response of the Acting Chief accentuated the positive with the comment that “"Those numbers are great to see," Hauth said. "I think it’s continued work internally and working with outside agencies. We’ve made great strides in terms of doing things in the community."”

So what do the numbers look like?  Well, there are specific traditional crime rates for assorted offenses and incidents with the overall crime rate in terms of incidents per 100,000 of population actually down in 2017.  There is also what is known as the crime severity index which uses a weighting method to account for both the number of crimes and their severity.  There sometimes is confusion in media reports between the crime rate and the crime severity index and the confusion mounts if one goes up while another goes down.  However, if one looks at longer term trends, both sets of number tell a similar story.  Crime overall has come down in Thunder Bay over the last 15 years, but certain types of crime have actually gone up.  In particular, violent crime and homicides in particular.

In the case of Thunder Bay, the overall crime rate in 2017 declined from 6,771 incidents per 100,000 in 2016 to 6,576 incidents per 100,000 – a drop of 2.9 percent.  Since 1998, the overall crime rate in Thunder Bay has declined from 10,911 incidents per 100,000 to the current 6,576.  However, the homicide rate has exhibited an opposite trend going from 2.6 homicides per 100,000 in 1998 to 6.04 per 100,000 in 2017.  When it comes to crime severity, the accompany figure sums it all up quite nicely. 

The overall crime severity rate (with everything relative to a base of 100) was quite stable from 1998 to about 2010 and then fell and has stabilized since 2012.  For 2017, the crime severity index is up from 87.48 to 88.25- an increase of about 1 percent.  The decline in the crime rate however is being driven by the fall in the rates of non-violent crime.  What is more alarming is the increase in violent crime which in 2017 is the highest it has been since 1998. 

We can argue that crime rates are down overall, but the concern of the public is that violent incidents – homicides, assaults, etc… seem to be on the way up.  Drug possession or a vehicle theft is a problem, but the public is more perturbed by gang and drug related violence and homicides. The issue facing municipal candidates is what solutions can be offered to deal with the rising rates of violent crime in Thunder Bay?  And to help frame the discussion in a simple manner amenable to most municipal candidates, should solutions involve more resources to police or more effective use of existing resources and what should those solutions be?

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Homicies Data Update: Thunder Bay Still Ranked First

Statistics Canada has just released the latest crime data report with the 2017 edition of Police Reported Crime Statistics. Overall, crime is up a bit in Canada.  While there has been some improvement in Thunder Bay's ranking when it comes to crime severity in general, what is of particular interest of course especially to us in Thunder Bay is the homicide rate.  According to Statistics Canada:

"After little change in 2016, the national homicide rate increased 7% in 2017, moving from 1.69 homicides per 100,000 population to 1.80. Police reported 660 homicides, 48 more than in 2016. The 2017 homicide rate was higher than the average for the previous decade (1.67 per 100,000 population for 2007 to 2016).

The increase in the national number of homicides was largely a result of the greater number of homicides in British Columbia (+30) and Quebec (+26).

With a total of seven homicides in 2017, Thunder Bay recorded the highest homicide rate among the CMAs for the second year in a row (5.80 homicides per 100,000 population). Abbotsford–Mission (with 9 homicides) and Edmonton (with 49 homicides) had the next highest homicide rates (4.72 and 3.49 per 100,000 population, respectively). Saguenay was the only CMA to report no homicides in 2017.

The attempted murder rate in Canada increased 4% from 2016 to 2017, to 2.25 per 100,000 population. A 25% increase in the province of Quebec was the main contributor to the overall national increase. This was due to the January 2017 shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Québec. This incident resulted in six homicide victims and 40 victims of attempted murder."

I have done a number of posts on this topic over the years so its time to update some of the numbers. The two figures below plot the homicide rate (homicides per 100,000 of population) for Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Canada.  The first figure is the raw annual homicide rate while the second figure plots a smoothed series which gives you a better picture of the longer term trends. Annual numbers tend to have a lot of variation and you really should not base analysis or policy on one or two years of data. However, based on the smoothed series (LOWESS Smooth using a 0.8 bandwidth) you can see the picture that emerges here over the longer term.

While the homicide rate in Thunder Bay for 2017 is down from the previous year at 5.8 versus 6.6 homicides per 100,000, the long term trend in one of increase.  The annual  un-smoothed data suggests the upward trend began circa 2008-09 while the smoothed series suggests that it has been a 21st century phenomenon with the rise starting approximately around 2000.  Thunder Bay's homicide rate has diverged from the national trend which has been one of decline.

This is certainly one issue for the Fall 2018 municipal election.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Is Income Inequality Responsible for Thunder Bay's Deteriorating Social Fabric?

Thunder Bay has seen a number of deteriorating social indicators over the last few years which include rising homicide rates, tragic deaths of indigenous people and increasing use of foodbanks.  In looking at the causes of what appear to be increased poverty and violence, one might consider that these trends are the result of rising income inequality.  Income inequality in both Canada and the United States has been rising over the last few decades and researchers have been drawing links between health status and economic inequality as well as the role of inequality in fostering environments conducive to crime and violence.

We had a talk last week at Lakehead University from Martin Daly whose book Killing the Competition makes the case that most homicides are the result of competition between males over goods that are distributed inequitably.  In other words, economic inequality drives the homicide rate and all things given one would expect more unequal societies to have higher crime and homicide rates.  Of course, this raises the question as to what income inequality has been like in Thunder Bay over the last few years and whether it too has trended up.

Needless to say, information on income inequality at a CMA level is not easy to obtain or construct.  However, there is tax filer data available from Statistics Canada obtained from Revenue Canada and it is possible to obtain annual data on median total tax filer incomes for the top 1 percent as well as the bottom 50 percent and construct a ratio. One can construct a simple dispersion or inequality measure by taking the ratio of the median income of the top 1 percent to the median income of the bottom 50 percent on the tax filer total income distribution.  If this ratio goes up over time, it implies increasing income inequality while if it goes down it implies decreasing inequality.

The figure below plots this measure of income inequality for the period 1982 to 2015 for Thunder Bay as well as Greater Sudbury and Ontario.  The results are intriguing.  In 1982, the median total income of the top 1 percent of tax filers in Thunder Bay was 11.9 times that of the median for the bottom 50 percent - $78,200 versus $6,600.  By 2015, the ratio was 12.34 - $236,900 versus $19,200. While income inequality in Thunder Bay has gone up somewhat over time, much of the increase was actually between 1982 and 2001 when the ratio rose from 11.9 to 14.2 and has actually moderated since.

Given that homicide rates in Thunder Bay trended downwards from the early 1980s to 2007 and surged since 2007, there does not seem to be much correlation here.  Moreover, Figure 1 also plots the same inequality measure for Greater Sudbury as well as Ontario as a whole.  Since the late 1990s, Greater Sudbury has actually been more unequal with respect to this inequality measure than Thunder Bay and yet its homicide rate is now lower.  As well, both Thunder Bay and Sudbury have a much more equal distribution of tax filer income than Ontario as a whole which saw its ratio rise from 15.3 in 1982 to peak at 24.9 in 2006 before declining to 22.2 in 2015.

So whatever is disturbing the social fabric of Thunder Bay, income inequality does not appear to be the obvious culprit. 

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Comparing Homicide Rates: Why Thunder Bay Has a Problem

From a peak reached in the early 1990s, police reported crimes rates in Canada have been on a downward trend.  This is also the case for homicide rates, which have been on a downward trend nationally since the early 1980s.  There is of course variation from year to year in homicide rates so some type of regression smoothing procedure is helpful in establishing what the longer-term trends over time are.  What quickly emerges from an examination of long-term trends is that Thunder Bay followed national trends in homicide rates until the early 21st century but that since then there has been a substantial divergence.  It is not a “northern Ontario” thing because the Greater Sudbury CMA tracks provincial and national homicide rates quite closely.

Figure 1 presents LOWESS Smoothed homicide rates for Canada and major regions from 1981 to 2015.  LOWESS is a particularly useful smoothing tool because it helps deal with “outliers” – that is extreme observations that can often distort averages taken over time. The data source is from Statistics Canada (Table 2530004 - Homicide survey, number and rates (per 100,000 population) of homicide victims, by census metropolitan area (CMA), annually).  Canada as a whole has seen a steady decline in homicide rates going from smoothed values of 2.74 per 100,000 in 1981 to 1.51 by 2015 – a drop of 45 percent.  This decline is a feature of the West, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada though Atlantic Canada sees a sight upturn after 2006.  In terms of regional rankings, homicide rates are now the highest in the West, followed by Atlantic Canada, then Ontario and finally Quebec.