229 Canadian cities, ranked by violent crime

We love lists. They appear to bring order to a disordered world. They promise to simplify complexity. They seem to help us understand the convoluted. Now Statistics Canada has given us a whopper of a list: A tote board that unspools from 1 to 229, where Number 1 is the Canadian community where violent crime is most severe.

Tiny, terrible Thompson, Manitoba, takes top spot in this list, capturing the ignominious honour of community (pop. greater than 10,000) with the worst violent crime, compared to the national average. Thompson’s ranking, 461.6, is more than four and a half times the national average for 2007 of 96.5. Bringing up the rear, at Number 229, is North Saanich, British Columbia, with a ranking of 9.5, 10 times lower than the national average. Violent crime in Thompson is 48 times greater than violent crime in Saanich, according to the rankings. The full list, not available through StatsCan’s public release this week of its new crime tracking system, appears above.

The ranking is built on StatsCan’s new crime severity index (see previous post), touted as a more reliable measure of crime, since it measures both the volume of crimes and the seriousness of those crimes. It’s also considered more reliable since violent crimes are now weighted more heavily in the calculations. In the old fashioned crime-counting scheme, one murder played the same role in a city’s violent crime total as one punch landed in a barroom fight. In the new system, one murder is considered 300 times more severe than a common assault.

Thompson is a picturesque but rugged town about 750 kilometres north of Winnipeg, home to roughly 13,500 people. Can we now conclude that it was the most violent place in Canada in 2007?

Maybe not, for the reasons suggested in my previous post about the shortcomings of the crime severity index, and others. But it will spur significant debate, since StatsCan itself says the new index allows for comparison of the severity of crime between jurisdictions and across time.

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