The Criminal Justice System of Canada: Sources of Crime Data

Introduction

The security and safety of the public is among the major concerns for any government. For these reasons, justice systems aimed at enhancing the security of their citizens were adopted by the state government. The police and the courts play a major role in security related issues. While the police maintain peace and order, the courts uphold the rule of law by solving disputes. This ensures that justice is served. To effectively fulfill its responsibilities, the justice system needs to collect crime statistics from various sources. In order to observe crime trends and to develop strategies aimed at curbing crime. According to Boyce, Cotter and Perreault (2013), crime matters are complex and are likely to have a long lasting impact on the victims, their families, friends and the society at large. Therefore, governments have committed their resources to fighting crime.

In an attempt to prevent crime, the criminal justice system in Canada relies on crime data collected from police records, court cases and records of correctional facilities. As such, this paper will discuss in depth these sources of crime statistics. Additionally, the methods used by these sources to collect data will be included. Conclusively, the reliability of information differs in each of the sources; hence, the paper will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of relying on data from each of the sources. The study results will help one gain a deeper understanding of crime data and its sources, as well as on the criminal justice system which is critical in criminology.

Sources of Crime Collection Data

The criminal justice system collects data from official and unofficial sources. The official sources include the police, correction agencies, and the courts (Bourgon, 2014, p. 1). Unofficial sources include other people, institutions and agencies that are external to the criminal justice system. Despite the fact that some sources provide very limited data, they still remain essential in determining the trends in all types of crimes ranging from violent crimes and hate crimes to property crimes. Bourgon (2014) further states that the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) acts as the central point of the provincial and federal areas where information is collected (Bourgon, 2014, p. 1). The role of the CCJS is to gather data on all unlawful acts reported by victims or citizens to the police. Moreover, the institution collects data through the general social survey which attempts to gather information on victimization cases after every five years.

In Canada, police reports are the main sources of crime data. According to Bourgon (2014), the police gather crime data based on the citizens’ reports. Through their annual Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR), the Canadian police make the data public (Boyce et al., 2014, p. 4). The Crime Severity Index (CSI), helps determine the number and seriousness of the reported crimes. The index recorded a drop of 9 percent in the year 2013 to 68.9 (Boyce et al., 2014, p. 29). Moreover, in 2013 the lowest crime rate since 1969 was reported. The rate may either imply that the public is shying away from reporting crime or maybe crime incidences have actually reduced (Boyce et al., 2014, p. 3).

Besides police reports, crime statistics are also sourced from the courts and correctional agencies. Court data is compiled from a number of cases that the courts process whereas data from correctional agencies is collected by determining the number of individuals entering a prison facility (Bourgon, 2014, p. 2). Prisons provide information of people, who have already been convicted and sentenced as well as those who are still waiting for their trial. The difference between data collected from correctional the police and that collected from correctional agencies is that police crime data includes both crimes that were not charged but were only reported and criminals that were charged and convicted (Bourgon, 2014, p. 2). Courts crime statistics, in its turn, includes all the court decisions made of either an individual being found guilty or not guilty.

Additionally, the General Social Survey on Victimization allows the Criminal Justice System of Canada to retrieve crime statistics and relevant information (Boyce et al., 2014, p. 10). Other sources of crime data include informal sources such as individuals and agencies outside the system. For example, humanitarian organizations gather information on victimization. The League for Human Rights of B’Nai Brith collects its own data on hate crime though it is not clear the methods employed by the organization to collect the data (Janhevich, 2001, p. 11).

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Various Sources of Crime Data

Each of the sources has its own strengths and weaknesses, which affect the level of reliance to its collected data. The number of police reported crime cases depends on a number of reasons which include the structures in place for crime reporting and the society’s response to particular crimes (Silver, 2006, p. 8). This implies that the structure of services offered by the police may hinder crime victims from reporting. However, the public find it easier to report to the police hence making the department the highest source of crime data. The police department being easily accessible to the public makes a better data collection source compared to other sources. For instance, compared with the courts, the police department has many stations, which means that people from all over the country can access them in case of falling victims to crime. Courts and correctional facilities provide reliable statistics though the data collected does not reflect the approximate crime level since their data excludes crimes that were reported but never charged. This implies that all crimes reported to the police do not always reach the court; therefore, the courts and collection agencies gather less data on crime compared to the police. Nevertheless, the data collected by the courts may be verified through court cases, since the procedure involves passing a verdict of whether a person is guilty or innocent. This places courts at a position of providing more reliable data on real crimes. However, the actual measurement of crime data can never be attained since crimes that go unreported still exist.

Conclusion

Though determining the actual crime statistics remains challenging, the Criminal Justice System in Canada has managed to source the data from the police, courts, correctional facilities and other informal sources in an attempt to establish strategies of curbing crime, determine crime patterns and also manage the costs associated with the justice department. By doing so, the department not only has gathered relevant information on crime statistics but has also been able to access unique information on specific crime characteristics that is collected through the General Social Survey of Victimization. Therefore, crime statistics assist the justice department in planning and enhancing public safety, which is a major role for every government.

Reference List

Bourgon, G. (2014). Measuring crime in Canada. Web.

Boyce, J., Cotter, A., & Perreault, S. (2014). Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2013. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 85(2), 3–45.

Janhevich, D. (2001). Hate crime in Canada: An overview of issues and data sources. Web.

Silver, W. (2006). Crime statistics in Canada. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 27(5), 8.