There is an perception common to residents of large cities that crime is rampant. Our area has an undeservedly bad reputation for crime. Here in Weston / Mount Dennis, many people react to reports of crime by moving away, staying home more often or avoiding areas concerned.
We live next to a country that does indeed have high levels of crime. Not only that but our favourite TV shows are largely American and reflect the culture of crime that exists down there. In addition, the old adage, if it bleeds it leads governs many news outlets and so violent crime often receives the bulk of attention by the media. This gives people a perception that crime levels are roughly comparable to those of our neighbour to the south.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Generally speaking, murder is a good indicator of overall crime levels. It’s a terrible and devastating crime; seemingly unavoidable in large cities. Last year, in Chicago, a city slightly smaller than Toronto, a total of 490 people were murdered. Compare that to the 604 murdered in all of Canada in 2015 and suddenly some perspective comes into play. That same year, 55 people were murdered in Toronto, which for a city of this size, is remarkably a rare and shocking event. Toronto by many measures, is one of the safest cities in North America, yes, even compared to the rest of Canada or for that matter, Ontario it’s safe. Not only that, looking at figures from ten years ago when 79 people were murdered in the city, Toronto is safer than ever.
Looking at the raw numbers without sensational headlines, it’s possible to see a downward trend although shooting occurrences remain stubbornly high.
Anyone involved in statistics knows that numbers change year over year. Trends establish themselves, anomalies, (better known as blips) can occur too. When police forces and news outlets (as they have this year) proclaim things like “gun homicides are up 200%“, it’s often a short-term blip rather than a long-term trend. It does get peoples’ attention though which is the whole point if you’re trying to maintain a police budget or gather online clicks.
As the old saying goes, there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics. Next time alarming crime statistics are presented in the media or by government agencies, be sure to consider the sources and their motivations before being frightened into thinking that we live in a dangerous city or community.