Statistics Canada has released its most recent report on police personnel and expenditures and notes that police strength measured as officers per capita declined in 2012 by 1 percent. Moreover, there has been a slight decline in police expenditures overall with spending in 2011 totaling 12.9 billion – a decline of 0.7 percent from the previous year. However, spending and officers per capita have generally grown over the last decade and police forces and police spending are higher than they used to be. What is of more interest to me are the numbers at the CMA level and their relationship with crime rates.
Figure 1 ranks police strength per 100,000 in 2012 across
Canada’s CMAs while Figure 2 ranks crime rates in 2012 as measured by the
Statistics Canada Crime Severity Index for 2011. In per capita terms, police strength is the lowest in
Moncton, Kelowna and the Saguenay and the highest in Regina, Thunder Bay and
Winnipeg. As for crime rate
severity, it is the lowest in Guelph, Quebec City and Toronto and the highest
in Thunder Bay, Saskatoon and Regina.
So, is there a correlation between crime severity and the per capita
size of the police establishment?
Figure 3 plots the two variables along with a linear regression line and
the answer is yes but there is a fair amount of dispersion around the
line. No doubt, other factors can affect
the number of officers per capita aside from just the crime severity but one
would think crime severity should be an important factor in generating a demand for police officers.
For example, take a city like Kelowna. It has a Crime Severity Index of 97.4 and 113 officers per 100,000 of population. Based on the regression line in Figure 3, it should have 169 officers. Moncton has a Crime Severity Index of 68.8 and 105 officers per capita but the regression line suggests it should be at 153 officers. On the other hand, Winnipeg has a crime severity score of 107.2 and 198 officers per 100,000 of population while the regression line suggests it should be at 174 officers. As well, Saint John has a crime severity of 79.2 and 189 officers per 100,000 of population whereas the regression line predicts its police strength should be at 159. I find the results intriguing. Based on crime severity alone, some CMAs have substantially smaller police forces than their crime rates alone would mandate while others are substantially larger. What might the other determinants be? Is geographic size of municipalities and subsequent population density a factor – more spread out CMAs need more police? Is age distribution of the population a factor – “older” cities are quieter and easier to police? The types of crimes – are some crimes more police intensive than others? Neat stuff.