Are Crime Rates Really Falling?

Are Crime Rates Really Falling?

Crime rates

Are crime rates really falling, or are there crimes that aren’t included in the stats?

The Fraser Institute recently released a report (PDF) stating that the “crime rate” in Canada continues to drop, but the cost of investigating crime continues to rise.

Many people simply don’t bother reporting crime

Viewing the report somewhat differently, I would agree that the reported crime rate is dropping, but not the unreported rate. Criminals don’t rob banks much anymore, and other than for insurance purposes, many people simply don’t bother reporting crime. As the report indicates, the judicial process has become more expensive, extremely complicated and more demanding, straining the credibility of the system.

I still have cases that are over seven years old that have not even started to make their way through court. These investigations were done in conjunction with other countries, all of which have convicted and sentenced their accused years ago.

One only has to look at the Ghomeshi affair and the reluctance of women to formally complain. The allegations, if determined to be criminal, may have never been included in the overall crime statistics had it not been for the level of publicity it received. How many of these similar and unreported crimes occur? Sadly, I would suggest it is a daily event. I don’t blame these women one bit. Standing alone in a courtroom, being vigorously examined by a skilled trial lawyer, exposing everything about yourself is a daunting and scary proposition. If that isn’t enough, the myriad opinion and victim blaming on social media can take has a huge emotional toll with unpredictable results.

What crime rates don’t include

Modern-day, Internet-era crime may be up, while at the same time, for reasons mentioned, reporting may be down

The data, used by analysts to generate “crime rates” comes from reported crime such as frauds, thefts, robberies, assaults, murder, etc. Many of these crimes never get properly investigated because of volume, complexity, resources and time required.

Over the last 10 years of my law enforcement career, there seemed to be a growing amount of intelligence generated on criminal activity, most of which could not be acted upon therefore this huge amount of data is not part of crime rate statistics.

Crime groups in general, and society as a whole, are far more sophisticated and well removed from convention police radar. Technology and social media platforms have greatly advanced the capabilities of cybercrime and the ability to avoid detection. Social media has also elevated the potential for public scrutiny, shame and embarrassment, which can be a deterrent for reporting crime. So, in fact, modern-day, Internet-era crime may be up, while at the same time, for reasons mentioned, reporting may be down—the gulf between the two ever widening.

Cybercrime is growing rapidly

Criminals and run-of-the-mill miscreants have found the Internet to be a rich, and largely unguarded landscape

President Obama recently stated that Cyber terrorism is one of the greatest threats that the United States faces. The variety of illicit Internet-based crime opportunities beyond cyber terrorism are endless and difficult to accurately measure.

Criminals and run-of-the-mill miscreants have found the Internet to be a rich, and largely unguarded landscape that promotes unfettered growth for all kinds of crime and bad behaviour.

An example is bullying. There was a time when bullying took place in the hallways and playgrounds of our schools. When “Johnny” went back to class with a bloody nose, it was immediately reported. Now, cyber bulling takes place on social media, and can reach a child wherever their smart phone goes. It is far more difficult to detect these crimes unless “Johnny” reports it himself.

The economic and social costs of modern crime

The cost of law enforcement and the justice system will continue to rise and place significant pressures on governments to maintain an acceptable level of service. We will continue to see an erosion of services for lower priority responses and a higher reliance on private security. Various forms of cybercrime and fraud will continue to rise and in the end, we will collectively need to raise our level of responsibility for our own safety.


Crime rates, as reported, may not accurately reflect the actualities of crime in this new era. While criminals operate in dark, uncharted territory, undetected, and with so much crime unreported, can we really say the crime rate is down? I hope, against my better judgment, that it is, but the conventional means by which we measure crime may need an adjustment.

About the Author

Pat Fogarty is a former organized crime investigator now leading Internet research and investigations at Fathom Research Group. Read more about Pat.