Friday, 18 July 2008

Will people please use their brains for a second?

So today Stats Canada released some statistics on crime rates across the country. I read about it on Yahoo Canada News, which you can read for yourself here. The jist of it, though, is that, overall, the crime rate for Canada as a nation has decreased for the third year in a row. Go us! Moreover, the stats show:
"Crime rates were down in all provinces and territories, except Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. Overall crime rates remained highest in the western provinces.

Saskatchewan's crime rate fell 3.5 per cent but still was the highest in the country, including the highest rate of violent crime. Manitoba's 62 homicides last year were up 23 from 2006, giving it the highest provincial homicide rate and Manitoba's highest murder rate since recording began in 1961.

"For the fourth year in a row, the lowest provincial (crime) rate occurred in Ontario and Quebec," said the agency."

Alow me to recap. The areas with the highest crime rates are the western provinces, with Saskatchewan at the top. The only areas with increasing crime rates are Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. Ontairo and Quebec have the lowest crime rates.

Now read the comments people left about the article. Many people have said things along the lines of "Gee Im glad I dont live in Newfoundland! I'll stay here in BC". One guy commented that Newfoundland seems like "a suburb of Iraq". Waaaait a second here. Does anyone know the difference in highest crime rate and an increasing crime rate?

Newfoundland has an increasing crime rate. That does not mean it has a HIGH crime rate. If the crime rate in Newfoundland went from 1% in 2007 to 3% in 2008, that means it has an increasing crime rate. If Alberta had a crime rate in 2007 of 40% and that dropped to 38% this year, then the crime rate decreased. But which one is HIGHER? Of course these numbers are made up for illustrative purporses but the point remains. The article said Newfoundland had an increasing crime rate, not that it had a high crime rate. It explicitly stated that the highest crime rates were in western Canada!

Another point that seems to have passed people by is that these statistics are based on a per capita level. A province that had one person and one crime would have a crime rate of 100%. Nevertheless, there was only a single crime committed in that province that year. A province of 10,000,000 people with 5,000,000 crimes would have a crime rate of 50%. Which would you think is the safer place to live? If the number of crimes were kept constant (i.e. if the same number of banks were robbed in each province, the same number of people were killed, etc.) then the provinces with the smaller populations would come out with the higher crime rates.

This is really simple stuff. Why can't people get their heads around it? An increading crime rate doesnt mean a high crime rate. Newfoundland isnt a "suburb of Iraq". If anything, western Canada is Bagdad's backyard. Take a look at the picture below: (click it for a better look, it comes out like crap on my blog)

The National crime rate is about 7%. The provinces with the lowest crime rates are at about 5.5%. Newfoundland is a tad over 6%, making it one of the provinces with the lowest crime rate (pretty much smack dab in the middle actually). Compare that to the rates for the provinces out west: they are much greater than the national average.

So why the hate on Newfoundland? Yes, the province has an increasing crime rate, but its still a LOW crime rate. Its pretty ironic and kinda sad when commenters from western Canada call Newfoundland a "suburb of Iraq" when they live in the part of Canada with the highest crime rates. Maybe I'm just irate because I'm a Newfoundlander and people are "trashing" my home province, but seriously, people need to learn how to understand statistics.

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