Canada’s crime rate at its lowest level in 40 years

Amid all the recent headlines about shootouts, gang violence and assaults, it appears the crime rates across Canada are actually on the decline.

A new Statistics Canada report released Tuesday claims that the overall crime rate in 2011 was down 6 per cent from 2010 and was at it's lowest point since 1972.

Moreover, violent crime, which includes homicides, attempted murders and assault, was down 4 per cent — the fifth consecutive annual decline.

The report does note that Canada's homicide rate rose 7 per cent in 2011 to 1.7 homicides per 100,000 population, but that the homicide rate has generally been declining since peaking in the mid-1970s.

Overall, the agency says Canadian police services reported almost 2 million Criminal Code (excluding traffic) incidents in 2011, about 110,000 fewer than in 2010.

The new statistics have prompted public safety minister Vic Toews to tout his government's much-maligned tough on crime agenda.

Toews took to Twitter, Tuesday morning, to take some credit for the decline in crime:

The Harper government's flagship crime policy, their omnibus crime bill, was enacted last spring and includes prison expansion, additional court resources and tougher sentences for drug crimes and sexual assaults.

Crime study highlights:

Canada's most dangerous cities (based on the crime severity index):

1. Regina

2. Saskatoon

3. Thunder Bay

4. Winnipeg

5. Kelowna

Canada's safest cities (based on the crime severity index):

1. Guelph

2. Quebec

3. Toronto

4. Ottawa

5. Barrie

Largest crime category per cent increases from 2010:

1. Child Pornography (+40 per cent)

2. Homicides (+7 per cent)

3. Cannabis possession (+7 per cent)

4. Possession - other drugs (+5 per cent)

5. Impaired driving (+2 per cent)

Largest crime category per cent decreases from 2010:

1. Possession of stolen property (-30 per cent)

2. Assaulting a police officer (-26 per cent)

3. Counterfeiting (-25 per cent)

4. Sexual assault (-23 per cent)

5. Other violations causing death (-23 per cent)

Sex of accused persons:

Males continued to account for the majority of accused persons. Of the 413,800 adults charged with a criminal offence in 2011, 79 per cent were male.

According to StatsCan, however, while the rate of adult males charged has been declining over the past 20 years, the rate of adult females has generally been increasing, particularly for violent crime. Since 1991, the rate of males charged with violent crime has declined 32 per cent, while the rate for females has increased 34 per cent.