More crimes going unreported: survey

Canadians reported fewer crimes to police in 2009 than they did five years earlier while the proportion of the population who were victims of crime remained unchanged, survey results suggest.

Newly released crime statistics suggest Canadians have little faith in the justice system and underscore the need for new government measures, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Tuesday.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews responds during question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

The statistics, published in Statistics Canada's 2009 General Social Survey on Victimization, suggest Canadians reported 31 per cent of the crimes they experienced to police in 2009 — down from 34 per cent in the previous survey in 2004.

The random phone survey collected information from 19,500 respondents living in the 10 provinces. Data from the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut will be released later.

The drop in reporting to police is "very troubling," and a sign law enforcement should "take the complaints of Canadians more seriously," Toews told CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon.

"We see this continuing trend of more and more crimes going unreported, and that … I believe is an indication of a lack of confidence in the justice system," Toews said. "And that is why our government is taking the measures that we are taking."

The measures include spending an estimated $2 billion on new prisons, which has drawn the ire of opposition members who have said such an undertaking could cost as much as $9 billion.

Canadians feel safe: report

Overall, however, the statistics revealed little change in victimization from 2004 to 2009. Ninety-three per cent of the Canadians surveyed said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their personal safety from crime, similar to 94 per cent in 2004.

Liberal MP Mark Holland, the public safety critic, said that particular statistic won't sit well with the Tories.

"They must be very disappointed that 93 per cent of Canadians disagree with them and feel that actually they are safe," Holland said on Power & Politics. "And when really they are trying to scaremonger and try to use this as diversion."

In both 2004 and 2009, the proportion of Canadians age 15 or older who said they had been victims of crimes in the previous 12 months was 27 per cent.

The proportion who reported being victims of violent crime — sexual assault, robbery, physical assault — was unchanged at six per cent, or 1.6 million people over 15 in 2009.

When asked about specific situations like walking home at night or waiting for public transportation after dark, Canadians said they felt as safe in 2009 as they had in 2004.

The general social survey focuses on eight types of crimes, including:

  • Sexual assault.
  • Robbery.
  • Physical assault.
  • Breaking and entering.
  • Theft of motor vehicles or parts.
  • Theft of household property.
  • Vandalism.
  • Theft of personal property.

In July, Statistics Canada released a separate survey looking at a much wider variety of crimes reported to police across the country. It said nearly 2.2 million crimes were reported to police in 2009, about 43,000 fewer than in 2008.