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Gotham City (Toronto) Needs Batman

The justice system has been collapsing since COVID-19, I know this because I have been in court on the front line for over a decade. Here are some of my observations: arrests have been going down for some time in Toronto, I don’t know why, shoplifting is basically decriminalized (check the diversion list), police morale is low, Crown attorneys are burnt out, some court staff don’t want to communte to the new courthouse, Judge’s are retiring away, the City is going broke, so it’s becoming easier to get away with criminal acts and offenders know it. Did I miss anything? The solution is likely very complicated and influenced by politics and our elected officials. Looking at the decisions that got us here would offer clues. So, for now we must hope Batman will save us. Here are some recent trends I have been able to find.

Is Toronto Becoming More Dangerous?

This is raw data, so exact conclusions are hard to draw. Especially considering the different years that are used as samples. However, in all but two examples, the rate for a given offence in each location, including Toronto, increased from the previous year. These increases range from relatively small (as shown by the sexual assault totals for Toronto, Peel and Durham) to significant (vehicle thefts with York excluded). While this data does not speak to the level of concern felt by the residents of these areas, there may be some causes for concern based on some of the trends shown. It may also be that police departments will shift their attention to different offences to address trends such as these.

Aside from the limitations of the data set out above, there are other topics that this data cannot speak to. These datapoints do not reflect all the criminal activity of each type that occurs within a given year. Significant numbers of criminal offences are never reported to the police, particularly sexual assaults. On the other hand, no explanations for these trends can be made using numbers alone. The statistics do not account for yearly population changes, population density, or the underlying social causes of criminal behaviour.

The following data is provided by the Toronto Police Service, the Peel Regional Police, the Durham Regional Police, and the York Regional Police. The five offences chosen are the five most common offences identified by TPS reporting in 2023. Please note that the various police services record data differently and any differences will be noted. The data provided is the most recent that has been made available by each organization.

Recent Crime Trends in the Greater Toronto Area

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Conducting additional analysis using averages of tracked criminal offences over the last three years or more would skew the data because of the restrictions our communities experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic that impacted everyday life and therefore criminal activity as well. These pieces of context are necessary to have an informed conversation on the topic of crime. They are also why several news outlets report that Toronto remains one of the safest places to live in Canada by many different metrics despite the volume of crime it experiences. Even with crime rates on the rise, Toronto is still considered among the most safe cities in Canada and the world.

Crime Rates in Toronto

Car Thefts

As shown by the table above, motor vehicle theft is a topic generating more and more attention. In Toronto, reported vehicle thefts were found to occur most frequently in May, June, and November of 2023. Each of those months averaged over 1,100 thefts. By comparison in 2022, the peak occurred in December with just over 1,000 thefts. However, this was the peak of a gradual increase that had started in July.

Also in 2023, the most car thefts occurred on Thursdays (239). Followed by Monday (230) and no day collected less than 141 (Saturday). West Humber-Clairville was the most common target for car thieves. Its total more than tripled the next closest neighbourhood, Etobicoke City Centre (142-34).

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is one of the more serious criminal offences under Canadian law. Women, particularly younger women are the most victimized demographic when it comes to this type of offence. However, despite popular perceptions of the offence, all genders and age groups are capable of being victims of sexual violence. The year 2023 saw 2,702 incidents of sexual assault across three subcategories of the offence; sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon. A total of 1,368 sexual assaults occurred within some kind of residence in 2023, be it a house, apartment, retirement, or group home. An additional 276 assaults were committed in schools or post secondary institutions.

Transit Violence

Public transit is one of the most important parts of a city’s infrastructure and people should have the right to go from one place to another safely. Data shows that crimes involving the TTC have become more common. 1,450 offences involving the transit system in some form were committed in 2022 and 1,735 occurred in 2023. The most common offences were assaults, sexual assaults, or robberies. The most common individual offence was assault (1,122), followed by assault with a weapon (177) and sexual assault (137).

Weapons Offences – Firearms

Weapons offences typically deal with the use of firearms and are among the most dangerous criminal offences because of the increased risk of serious injury or death they are associated with. For ease of reference, the following stats do not include any form of homicide or assault with a weapon. Based on the tracking of these offences, it is impossible to say which cases involved firearms, though a number could have. Focusing solely on offences dealing specifically with firearms, 2023 saw 220 instances of discharging a firearm with intent, 178 incidents of pointing a firearm, and 150 cases of a reckless discharge. No single neighbourhood experienced a significant amount of gun violence. The neighbourhood with the highest number of incidents (6) was Willowridge-Martingrove-Richview. The next highest incident total (3) was shared by Thorncliffe Park and Victoria Village. A total of 38 neighbourhoods in Toronto experienced at least one firearm-related offence in 2023.

Stages of the Criminal Justice System

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Historical Crime Trends in Toronto

Historical crime data is limited. However, Statistics Canada has published some information regarding crime rates for specific offences in Toronto beginning in the year 1991. Throughout the 90s, Toronto averaged around 18,820 car thefts per year which also equaled around 434 thefts per every 100,000 residents of the city. Sexual assaults averaged 2,829 per year or 66 sexual assaults per 100,00 people. Interestingly, the rates of sexual assault saw steady decline year over year between 1993-1998. Lastly, there were an average of 67 homicides per year at that time or under 2 for ever 100,00 people.

Between 2000-2009, there was an average of 16,204 car thefts per year which equaled a rate of 314 thefts per 100,000 people. There was a yearly rate of 2,553 sexual assaults, with rate of 49 per 100,000 people. And homicides reached an average rate of 95 per year which still averaged under 2 homicides per 100,000 people.

Throughout the 2010s, there were 8,146 car thefts a year on average, or 136 per 100,000. Data shows there was an average of 2,888 sexual assaults per year which led to a rate of 48 per 100,000. Finally, there was a yearly average of 96 homicides which still meant that under 2 homicides occurred for every 100,000 residents of Toronto.

These rate statistics show that over each of the last three decades, these three forms of major crime have remained relatively consistent on average based on reported data. This applies both in terms of raw numbers for each offence and numbers adjusted for population. While there may be peaks or valleys from year to year, as well as an unknown number of offences that go unreported, in general there seems to be no trend that suggests a long-term rise in criminality in Toronto over the past few decades.

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About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.