A recent very complimentary article in the Globe and Mail said that Weston was one of the very nicest neighbourhoods in all Canada—and it was correct. But it also built dramatic tension from a play between crime and neighbourhood pride.
That got my friend and me talking, and I did a little, only-slightly-more-than-cursory digging into the numbers. It turns out that Weston has crime, yes, but no more crime than some of the nicest neighbourhoods in the GTA.
The Toronto Police have a remarkably accessible and detailed set of statistics. I took from them the assault rate in 12 and 31 Division from the past year. I chose the assault rate because, first, it’s of interest given the recent rash of muggings in the area, and, second, because it is a large number that would likely be more stable than, say, the murder rate, which could vary dramatically from year to year. 12 and 31 Divisions include Weston, but also other, likely more violent areas like Jane and Finch, Chalkfarm, and Jane and Eglinton. In 12 Division, there were 985 assaults per 100,000 residents. In 31 Division, there were 955.
I chose the Peel Region for comparison because it is nearby and has a good reputation. Peel includes Mississauga, Brampton, and the wealthy Caledon region. In 2010, there were 951 assaults there per 100,000 residents—almost exactly the same as in the Weston area. 12 and 31 Divisions had only 2% more assaults per capita.
It turns out, then, that the Globe and Mail is half wrong. We are the nicest neighbourhood in Ontario, but we don’t have a (statistical) problem with crime. Weston is no more dangerous than Peel (if the assault rate is anything to go by). You are no more in danger today in Weston than you are in Square One. In fact, you’re probably safer, since assaults are way down this year.
What, then, to make of the recent rash of muggings?
First, they are a blip. There are two thousand assaults around here every year—most, presumably and deplorably, behind closed doors. 20 muggings is a blip in comparison—but a very visible and very disturbing blip.
Second, they deserve the full attention of the police, politicians, and public. They don’t deserve it because muggers endanger us on the streets. You’re safe. The muggings must be stopped because they are just the sort of crime that makes Weston a worse place in the long run. Public crime drives out private investment, and conversely private investment, from homeowners and businesses, drives out public crime—by creating better neighbourhoods and better jobs. When we cannot stop public crime, we risk a vicious cycle.
In short, crime breeds criminality. That’s why it must be stopped—not for today, but for tomorrow.