How many crimes do police solve?

There may be some anxiety among police departments across Canada today. The latest clearance figures – numbers that show how many crimes police solve – will be released today by Statistics Canada, but with a twist. StatsCan has revised the way it calculates the numbers to better take into account the amount of work that goes into solving serious crimes, and to better factor the relative unimportance of solving the least serious crimes, which can be almost impossible to solve. It means a police agency will get more credit in StatsCan’s figures for solving crimes like murder, sexual assault and robbery than cracking bicycle thefts and break-ins. This is where the anxiety comes in. Some police departments may have been traditionally great at solving those minor crimes and not so great at solving the serious stuff. Their overall clearance rate may be about to take a dive. John Turner, head of the policing section of StatsCan tells me that overall, national clearance rates won’t change that much, but there may be some shifts when comparing police departments. For the purposes of justifying big budgets, some departments like to trot out those numbers. Nationally, police solve four out of every 10 crimes. Check out the results in last year’s report, Police Resources in Canada report, which also documents police strength and spending.

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