Police-reported crime in Canada up slightly in 2018, hate crime down, StatsCan reports

Police-reported crime in Canada increased for the fourth year in a row last year, but is still lower than the crime rate 10 years ago, according to new Statistics Canada figures.

The rise was largely due to an increase in fraud, some sexual assaults, shoplifting and thefts over $5,000, data published by the federal agency on Monday shows.

Police-reported crime, which the agency measures by both the crime rate and the crime severity index (CSI), rose by two per cent in 2018. The CSI tracks the severity of police-reported crime and takes into account how much crime is reported and its seriousness.

Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador all saw increases in their crime rate, while Yukon, Saskatchewan, Quebec and Nova Scotia saw a decrease. Alberta and British Columbia were stable in 2018.

The driving figure behind the CSI increase was fraud, including online and telephone scams such as the Canada Revenue Agency scam, according to the report.

Nationally, the rate of police-reported fraud (including identity theft and identity fraud) increased for the seventh year in a row, up 12 per cent from 2017.

The agency said some police services told them the increases in reports was likely connected to better options for reporting fraud online.

Police departments across Canada saw an increase in the number of reported sexual assaults.

Last year saw more than 28,700 police-reported sexual assaults, marking the fourth consecutive annual increase in the rate of sexual assault. The vast majority of reported cases were classified as level one, meaning they didn't involve a weapon or evidence of bodily harm.

Statistics Canada cautioned that the 2018 figures only involved incidents that came to the attention of police, while many crimes go unreported.

"The number of sexual assaults reported by police is likely an underestimation of the true extent of sexual assault in Canada, as these types of offences often go unreported to police," said the report.

"There were notable increases in police-reported sexual assaults in 2017 and 2018, corresponding in timing to the growing public discussion of issues around sexual violence."

Year-over-year homicide rate down

While the crime rate was up slightly, the national homicide rate declined by four percent in 2018, after increasing in 2017. Despite the dip, the homicide rate still remains higher than the average over the previous decade, said the report.

It also notes that the rate of homicide for Indigenous peoples in 2018 was five times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous people.

After seeing a spike in 2017, the number of police-reported hate crimes in Canada was down 13 per cent in 2018, from 2,073 incidents to 1,798.

Even with that decline, however, the number of hate crimes remains higher than any other year since 2009, with the exception of 2017, the agency notes.

Statistics Canada attributed the decrease in 2018 almost entirely to declines in Ontario.

It also found that nationally, the number of hate crimes targeting the Muslim population fell 50 per cent after spiking in 2017. In 2018, there were also fewer police-reported hate crimes targeting black communities (down 12 per cent) and fewer targeting sexual orientation (down 15 per cent).

"Police data on hate-motivated crimes include only those incidents that come to the attention of police services. These data also depend on police services' level of expertise in identifying crimes motivated by hate," cautions the report.