Police in Quebec have long been among the worst* in Canada at solving murders. Now, one man – bolstered by decades of meticulous research – is challenging this futility with a demand for an inquiry and the formation of a cross-departmental, province-wide cold case squad. John Allore charges that Quebec police are “completely incompetent.” He knows this, he says, because of his dogged research into more than 20 unsolved killings from the 1970s and 80s, including the murder of his 19-year-old sister Theresa. Allore says police deliberately refused to investigate those cases, so he did. Allore uncovered glaring failures in the investigation of Theresa’s November 1978 murder in a small community 150 kilometres east of Montreal. Police wrongly first labelled her death an accident or suicide, fumbled the search for missing clothing and possessions and later discarded important physical evidence that could help identify her killer. More than 37 years after Theresa was killed, the unsolved murder has just been added to the website of the Quebec provincial police force’s cold case unit, thanks to John Allore’s persistence. But he’s not done. Allore (hear him in the Cancrime podcast, after the jump) is pressing for co-operation among departments with unsolved cases that could be connected. His remarkable research and sharp criticism have attracted the attention of senior police officials in Quebec and given hope to families of other victims.
Halloween crime is still a problem for police across Canada, according to Statistics Canada. The national number crunching agency has released another analysis of scary crime data showing that during Halloween 2014, property crime reports to police skyrocketed roughly 52 per cent from a week earlier. Other crimes spiked, but not at the dramatic rate for property offences. Across all categories, crime reports to police increased 4.5 per cent at Halloween 2014.
They come with more caveats than an over-the-counter libido booster, but Canada’s national crime statistics will be delivered Wednesday, July 22. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, a branch of Statistics Canada, will reveal its yearly compilation of data, part of the Juristat, from which much will be inferred that should not or can not. Much will be written that misleads, misinterprets and miscalculates what the numbers tell us. There’s much more that these frail figures do not tell us than what they reveal.
There’s a perplexing – perhaps alarming – statistic in new national crime figures released today by Statistics Canada. The numbers show that Kingston, in eastern Ontario, now has the highest sexual assault rate of the 33 biggest Canadian urban centres in StatsCan’s crime survey. The sexual assault rate in Kingston (the number of crimes reported to police, factored for population) skyrocketed by 34 per cent from 2011 to 2012. The rate in Kingston for 2012 is 97. Winnipeg, now the most violent city in Canada overall, based on the latest violent crime severity index, is second to Kingston in sexual assault rate at 91.
Carmen Robinson should be 56, a greying boomer, perhaps an early retiree discovering the joy of life untethered from the daily grind. Time to sip mid morning lattes. Time to lounge with a favourite book. Time for family. Instead, Carmen (inset) is a smiling snapshot, a memory, a life with no conclusion. She also is a statistic, one of thousands of unsolved murders that have been accumulating in Canada in the past half century. Carmen was just 17 when she stepped off a bus a few blocks from her home in Victoria, British Columbia, on December 8, 1973. She vanished and was, it is presumed, murdered. Her body has not been found and her killer remains unknown.
There’s plenty of intriguing and heartening news in the latest national crime report. This week, Statistics Canada released its annual compendium of data, based on information provided to hundreds of police departments across the country. Many media reports seized on the simple, big-picture stats: the overall crime rate reached its lowest level since the early 1970s. It would be wrong to key on this as the most important finding. It may be the least useful statistic and likely tells us absolutely nothing about whether the true level of crime has declined in the past 40 years and whether communities are any safer now than they were in the 70s.
Canada’s official crime statistics, the numbers released annually by Statistics Canada, have undergone a historic, but virtually overlooked, transformation. For the first time in nearly 50 years, the stats reflect raw data provided by virtually every police department, meaning StatsCan is able to release a more complete inventory of crimes. In the past, some offences were rolled into broad categories, meaning, for example, that you couldn’t see how many criminal harassment cases came to the attention of investigators – more than 20,000 last year (see the entire list after the jump).
Stockwell Day, the Conservative cabinet minister who is being skewered for his answers today to questions about the government’s plans to spend billions more on new prisons, when police-reported crime rates are declining, got something dead right. Day was bang on when he said lots of crime goes unreported. That’s wholly, completely, totally accurate. The problem is, unreported crime has absolutely nothing – nadda, zippo, zilch – to do with plans to build more prisons and lock up more people for longer sentences. And that’s Day’s big problem, because he drew a big, fat intersecting line from one to the other, as if they were shadow and shape in a kid’s activity book matching game.
So what does it mean that Quesnel, a tiny city of about 10,000 people in the Cariboo District of central British Columbia, has the most severe violent crime in Canada? That dubious distinction is documented in this new ranking of 208 Canadian municipalities with populations of 10,000 or more, released this week by Statistics Canada. It is based on police-reported crime for 2009. The unwelcome honour bothers Quesnel Mayor Mary Sjostrom, but she doesn’t believe it means her community is unsafe.
Winnipeg, Manitoba has snatched from Regina, Saskatchewan the title of Canada’s (big city) violent crime capital. New figures released today by Statistics Canada show Winnipeg’s violent crime severity index is 187, double the national figure of 93.7. The violent crime severity index measures the severity of crimes reported to police. Among roughly 210 Canadian communities with populations of 10,000 or more, the centre with the most severe violent crime index isn’t a big city.