Exploring the Link between Crime and Socio-Economic Status in Ottawa and Saskatoon: A Small-Area Geographical Analysis
This publication presents the findings of three studies that examined crime and neighbourhood characteristics in Ottawa and Saskatoon. The studies reveal that there are marked differences in the level and nature of crime in the two cities. Saskatoon has one of the highest crime rates in Canada and there are several clear predictors of crime in its neighbourhoods. By comparison, Ottawa has one of the lowest crime rates and, overall, there is a weaker association between crime and socio-economic status. However, with respect to geographic patterns, high crime areas in both cities are found largely in the inner and central city.
The methodologies developed in the three studies can be employed as a guide for further research into the geography of crime in other Canadian cities. Of particular interest would be a comparison of patterns and trends in cities with varying social and economic conditions and different population profiles. For example, large cities in Western Canada, such as Edmonton and Vancouver, have higher crime rates and a notable presence of disadvantaged residents such as Aboriginal peoples. Also, further research could focus more specifically on certain types of offences. For example, the geographic distribution of violent crimes could be analyzed in relation to the location of public places such as commercial areas, parks and transit-way stations. At the same time, crime prevention policies can be studied in an effort to make these public places safer for vulnerable groups such as youth, seniors and women.
It is apparent that the Canadian urban system is characterized by important regional variations and thus the geography of crime can also be expected to vary considerably not only within cities but between cities as well. A fuller accounting of these differences is needed in order to develop appropriate strategies for crime prevention and social upgrading that deal specifically with local circumstances. For example, study # 2 of Saskatoon found a strong link between the incidence of violent crime and the presence Aboriginal peoples in certain inner city neighbourhoods. The study proposed a number of strategies to deal with this issue, including improving social services, education and housing opportunities for Saskatoon's Aboriginal residents. As the literature in Canadian criminology has demonstrated there are numerous other examples of individual and local conditions influencing crime.
Finally, from a methodological perspective, more research needs to be conducted on how the level of geography used in the analysis affects the relationship between crime and socio-economic conditions. The research in this publication found that a change in the unit of geography used in the analysis of Ottawa (dissemination areas and neighbourhoods) did have an important effect on the findings. Data could be attained for additional cities for geographic units including DAs, census tracts and neighbourhoods to conduct further tests on the effects of geographic aggregation on crime trends.
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