Should the Conservatives take credit for the falling homicide rate?

They haven't weighed in yet but you can be sure the Conservatives will want to take credit at some point for the decline in last year's homicide rate.

Statistics Canada's just-released numbers for 2012 show the 543 homicides reported to police is down 55 from 2011, giving Canada the lowest homicide rate since 1966.

The StatsCan table shows killings have dropped steadily from 611 in 2008 to 554 in 2010 before spiking to 598 in 2011.

StatsCan puts the 2012 homicide rate at 1.56 per 100,000 population, down 10 per cent from the previous year, The Canadian Press reported.

Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Ontario saw slight increases in homicide totals but Alberta, B.C., and Saskatchewan saw sharp drops.

[ Related: Homicide rates down across Canada in 2012: StatsCan report ]

In terms of rates, Nunavut was highest overall at 14.84, while Manitoba's rate was highest among the provinces at 4.10. P.E.I. saw no homicides at all last year, while the other Atlantic provinces had the lowest rates in Canada, lead by Newfoundland and Labrador at .59.

Global News noted in a graph that the national homicide rate was 1.28 in 1961 and peaked in 1975 at 3.03 before beginning a slow downward trend.

Thunder Bay, Ont., had the highest homicide rate among Canadian cities in 2012, at 5.81 per 100,000 population, thanks to seven killings. Five cities – St. John's, Moncton, N.B., Kingston, Brantford and Guelph, Ont., all recorded no homicides last year.

Toronto led the country with 80 killings, while Montreal recorded 47, Metro Vancouver 37, and Winnipeg and Edmonton 33 each.

The decline jibes with an overall decrease in Canadian crime rates that StatsCan reported last summer.

As CBC News noted when the crime report came out in July, the overall rate of police-reported crimes has dropped 26 per cent between 2002 and 2012, while violent crime was down 17 per cent over the same period.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney was quick to take credit for the government.

“These statistics show that our tough-on-crime policies are working,” a spokesman for the minister said at the time, according to the Toronto Star.

University of Toronto criminologist Anthony Doob rejected that connection, noting the same thing has been happening in other countries, including the United States, for the last couple of decades.

"The one thing that's clear is this is a long-term trend and has nothing to do with any of the so-called crime policies of the government," Doob told CBC News.

[ Related: Halifax's high firearm homicide rate troubles police ]

Indeed, as the Star noted in its July editorial on the crime stats, a lot of factors play into the long-term trend, perhaps most importantly Canada's aging demographic profile.

The 1973 peak in homicides, for instance, coincides with the Baby Boom bulge of young men in the population. There are simply fewer of them around today.

For the Conservatives, who came to power in 2006, to claim credit for more than two decades of dropping crime is as laughable as it is insupportable.
Toronto Star editorial

"For the Conservatives, who came to power in 2006, to claim credit for more than two decades of dropping crime is as laughable as it is insupportable," the Star's July editorial said.

But Sun News Network, in its commentary on last summer's data release, defended the Conservatives' strategy.

The fact the crime rate fell a few points does not mean the government's approach is misguided and it "means nothing to the victims of violent crime and their families," Sun News said.

The view dovetails nicely with the government's current stress on victims' rights through measures such as doubling and making mandatory the victim surcharge attached to fines for criminal convictions.

Falling crime stats don't "excuse a criminal justice system, which the Conservatives are trying to fix, that in far too many cases gives more rights to the perpetrators of violent crimes than their victims," Sun News said.

The comment piece also noted the theory that falling crime rates have to do with research showing a decline in the number of people reporting that they've been victimized.

"Those surveys show fewer than one in three crimes are now reported to police – including crimes like sexual assault – in part because the victims don't believe it will do any good."

Of course, it's harder to avoid reporting a homicide.