Where's the worst place in Canada to be a home alarm salesperson? Perhaps surprisingly, if you said Toronto, you'd be right. Statistics Canada reports that break-ins in Toronto dropped by 20 per cent in 2013 compared to the year before, to a rate of 227 per 100,000 population. That's the best rate in the country and well below the national average of 445 per 100,000 population. Barrie, Ont. tied with Toronto for the best rate.
Vancouver has the worst break-in rate, at 689. However, the city improved by three per cent compared to a year ago.
There were about 156,000 break-ins recorded by police in Canada in 2013, which was about 20,000 fewer than 2012. During the past decade, Statistics Canada says the breaking and entering rate has decreased by 51 per cent.
After Toronto and Barrie, the cities with the lowest break-in rates were Ottawa, Guelph, Ont. and Saint John, N.B. The city with the biggest decrease was Moncton, N.B., which saw its rate go down by 29 per cent.
Like Vancouver, even the cities with the worst break-in numbers had some reason for optimism as their rates declined. Regina had the second-worst break-in rate but it was six per cent better than the year before. Kelowna, B.C. was third-worst but improved by 12 per cent. The worst Ontario city, Brantford, saw an 18-per-cent improvement.
The only city in the country where the break-in rate went up was Sherbrooke, Que., which saw a five-per-cent increase.
The big drop in break-ins across the country helped bring down Canada's overall crime rate, reports Statistics Canada. Its Crime Severity Index (CSI) measures the volume and severity of crime. Each offence is assigned a weight based on the average sentence handed down by criminal courts for the offence. Data comes from the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, as reported by the police across the country. The survey does not include crimes that are not reported to police.
In 2013, the CSI declined by nine per cent compared to 2012. The index has gone down every year for the last decade. In 2013 it was 36 per cent lower than 2003.
"The decline in the CSI was specifically attributable to declines in breaking and entering and robbery," says the Statistics Canada report. "Decreases in some of the less serious but very frequent offences, such as theft of $5,000 or under and mischief, also contributed to the drop in the CSI."
However, police reported that there were more crimes of extortion, child pornography, aggravated sexual assault (level 3), sexual violations against children and identity fraud than in 2012.
Canada's traditional crime rate, which is simply a total of all crimes committed regardless of severity, dropped to its lowest level since 1969. It fell by eight per cent compared to the year before.
When all crimes are taken into consideration, Toronto is still near the top of the list of safest cities. Guelph and Barrie take top spot, followed by Quebec and then Toronto.
The highest CSI rate is in Regina, followed by Saskatoon, Kelowna and Vancouver.
"For the first time since 1998, the first year for which the CSA was calculated, none of Canada's census metropolitan areas recorded an increase," says Statistics Canada. It says the CSI was unchanged in Edmonton, while it declined in all other cities. The largest decrease compared to 2012 was Victoria, which was down 17 per cent.
Canada had 505 homicides in 2013, down 38 from 2012. The homicide rate of 1.44 victims per 100,000 population was the lowest since 1966. There were also 642 attempted murders in 2013, down 23 from 2012.
Violent incidents dropped by 10 per cent in 2013.
Four out of five crimes reported in Canada are non-violent. Of the 1.4 million non-violent crimes reported, 1.1 million were property crimes, including breaking and entering, possessing stolen property, theft of a motor vehicle, theft over $5,000, fraud, identity theft, mischief and arson. The non-violent CSI decreased by eight per cent.
There's also a Youth CSI, which measures the volume and severity of crimes where the accused is 12- to 17-years-old. This index fell by 16 per cent in 2013 -- the fourth year in a row that it has declined. The decline was mostly because fewer youths were charged with robbery, breaking and entering or theft of $5,000 or under.