Friday, August 3, 2012

Do Lurid Headlines About Crime Statistics Help?

I think this story over at the Winnipeg Free Press merits some comments. In the story they have this bit in the story titled "Homicide Capital of Canada":
Homicide capital of Canada.

Violent crime capital of Canada.

These are the inglorious honours given to Winnipeg following the release of a new report by Statistics Canada.

A national survey of police-reported crime data for 2011 found Winnipeg and Manitoba had the highest homicide rates in the country, and Winnipeg had the most violent crime.

Winnipeg had a homicide rate of 5.1 per 100,000 residents -- highest among major Canadian communities and Winnipeg's highest since the data were first collected in 1981.
The funny thing is, I went over to the Statistics Canada website and found a report on crime stats issued by this Canadian government agency the day before this story appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press. I am going to assume that this is the report that they were referring to since there are no direct links to the report in the article.

After looking at the report, it would appear that Winnipeg does have a higher number of reported violent crimes than other communities in Canada. However, I could not find anywhere that Statistics Canada dubs Winnipeg with the moniker "Homicide capital of Canada" or "Violent crime capital of Canada". I can only assume that this is something the newspaper came up with. It's either that or that the Canadian government has some strange contests.

I know that often times these kinds of lurid headlines catch the reader's attention and sell newspapers. But do these types of headlines help the communities that get stuck with these unfortunate monikers? If your community gets labeled with a lurid moniker like this, how do you mitigate the damage caused and work towards making your community safer?

Any ideas?


  1. Scott,
    I am the IT Manager and Analyst for the Prince Albert Police Service in Saskatchewan, Canada. Our city is below the population to be counted in the major center report with Winnnipeg. For all locations over 10,000 we are number 4 in Canada for crime rate for various reasons. We have been working hard with the community to reduce our crime and so far this year have reduced crimes against persons (violent crime) by 27%. Good news reports like that are here today and forgotten tomorrow. A label like the one Winnipeg received stays with them until some other location passes them.

  2. Ron, Thanks for your comment. I work for a city here in Texas that got a label like that a half dozen years ago or so. It's really unfortunate when this happens and isn't terribly constructive for the community.

    Yes, police agencies should be held accountable when their performance suffers and/or crime goes up. However, there has to be a better way to have a dialog about it than with an over the top headline.


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