Canada's overall police-reported crime rate dropped six per cent in 2011 from the previous year, reflecting the lowest crime figures recorded since the Trudeau era.

Statistics compiled by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) and released Tuesday by Statistics Canada showed that the crime rate in 2011 was at its lowest level in 39 years.

The decline continues a downward trend that began in the 1990s.

As well, the severity of crime index, which tracks the extent of serious crime in Canada, also declined by six per cent last year.

There were two million Criminal Code violations reported in 2011 — 110,000 fewer than in 2010.

Police services also reported about 424,400 incidents of violent crime, a drop of 14,800 over the year before.

For several years now, violent crimes in Canada have accounted for about 20 per cent of the offences reported by police.

But while the number of some offences such as attempted murders, assaults and break-ins were down from 2010, there was an increase in other serious crimes in 2011, including:

  • Homicide (seven per cent increase).
  • Criminal harassment (one per cent increase).
  • Sexual violations against children (three per cent increase).
  • Child pornography (40 per cent increase).
  • Impaired driving (two per cent increase).

According to the CCJS, the increase in the national homicide rate was driven by murders in Alberta and Quebec last year. There were 598 homicides committed in 2011, which was 44 more than in 2010.

"The Statistics Canada report showed that the crime rate has decreased by 6% from last year. However, it remains 208% higher than it was in 1962," Julie Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement.

"These statistics show that our tough-on-crime measures are starting to work. Our government is stopping the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

"The fact of the matter is that when the bad guys are kept in jail longer, they are not out committing crimes and the crime rate will decrease. However, there is still more work to do. Serious crimes like homicide and reported sexual offences against children were up."

Manitoba had highest homicide rate

For the fifth year in a row, Manitoba was shown to have the highest homicide rate among the provinces.

Winnipeg's police force released its own local data in anticipation of the publication of the CCJS figures — figures that showed a 14 per cent decrease in overall crime in the Manitoba capital, in spite of the province's high violent crime rate.

On the crime severity index, the Northwest Territories ranked first while Ontario was ranked last.

Total Crime Severity IndexViolent Crime Severity Index
 Index% change 2010 to 2011Index% change 2010 to 2011
Canada77.6-685.3-4
Newfoundland and Labrador74.0-860.4-15
Prince Edward Island65.8042.01
Nova Scotia79.1-584.70
New Brunswick65.0-663.3-8
Quebec73.5-476.51
Ontario61.1-673.4-5
Manitoba117.5-7167.10
Saskatchewan144.8-3141.5-8
Alberta88.6-1094.4-4
British Columbia95.1-794.6-8
Yukon159.2-7169.4-9
Northwest Territories342.70314.6-4
Nunavut326.1-6469.3-8

In a city-by-city breakdown of 33 "census metropolitan areas" — urban centres with a population of at least 100,000 and a large proportion of residents in an urban core — Regina topped the overall crime severity index, followed by Saskatoon and Thunder Bay, Ont.

The metropolitan area that had the lowest crime severity score for the fifth consecutive year was Guelph, Ont., followed by Quebec and then Toronto, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper is meeting today with the mayor following a recent rash of fatal shootings.

Winnipeg topped the metropolitan areas in terms of homicide rate, followed by Halifax and Edmonton.

There also appears to be a changing face of crime.

Adult males continued to account for the majority of people charged with criminal offences in 2011, though the rate of men being charged with violent crimes has gone down 32 per cent since 1991.

At the same time, the frequency of women ending up behind bars for violent crimes has risen by 34 per cent.

About 18,000 fewer youths were also accused of a crime in 2011 than in 2010, and the crime severity index among young people declined 10 per cent.