Spending more money on the police shows no clear link to reducing crime levels

One effect we are seeing now from the inflation that is largely a product of the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the increase in municipal taxes on a scale that was politically unimaginable not long ago.

Brandon, Manitoba’s second largest city, offers a 10% increase.. Calgary raised taxes by 7.8%.. Vancouver City Council approved a 7.5% increase.and Toronto City Council is debating a proposed 10.6% increase.

One element that generally doesn’t get much attention in all of this, however, is the cost of policing, the largest expense in most Canadian municipalities.

While it varies from province to province, in many communities police budgets are discussed by police boards, who then forward their recommendations to city councils for final approval. In Toronto, the Council is considering a proposal to increase police spending by C$18.3 million, to $1.35 billion.

But on social media and at City Hall, the Police Service is pushing for the Council to adopt the Police Board’s recommendation and add another $12.6 million to the increase. Chief Myron Demkiw said not doing so would create “unacceptable risks and jeopardize the service’s ability to ensure public safety, provide community policing and proactively patrol the city.”

Chief Demkiw is not the first police official to paint a dire picture of the consequences of the police force’s refusal of a request for more money. And he arrived around the same time as the researchers published an article examining the relationship over a decade between increased police spending and crime in Canada’s 20 largest cities.

The result? “We found no consistent correlation between crime rates and police funding,” Mélanie Seabrook, a researcher at the MAP Center for Urban Health Solutions and lead author of the study, told me.

While the vast majority of these cities increased spending on police services, after adjusting for inflation, only Edmonton and Saskatoon saw a statistically significant decline in crime between 2010 and 2020, the study period. By contrast, Ontario’s Peel Region, which includes Mississauga and Brampton; Quebec City; Gatineau, Quebec; and Winnipeg saw a significant increase in crime after increased police spending. For the other municipalities it was essentially a wash.

Ms. Seabrook, whose lab is part of St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto, said that to avoid distorting the study, the researchers did not use raw crime statistics. More spending on the police could mean more police officers who, in turn, make more arrests, increasing the level of reported crime.

Instead, they equated police spending with a index of severity of the crime published by Statistics Canada which adjusts the volume of crimes based on their severity and demographic factors. The theory, he said, is that the most serious crimes will always be reported regardless of how many police officers patrol a particular location.

Finding out how much cities actually spend on policing, rather than how much they have budgeted, has proven more difficult because many cities do not make spending readily available, Ms. Seabrook said.

“A big challenge,” he said, as far as finding out how much policing costs. “This is one of the reasons why there isn’t much research of this type on police budgets in Canada.”

While the overall result of the document, which will appear in Canadian public policy, is consistent with similar studies conducted in the United States, Ms. Seabrook said she and other researchers were surprised by the wide disparity in police spending across Canada. At the high end, Vancouver spends about $500 Canadian per resident per year, while Quebec City’s police force receives about $200 per capita.

“This obviously raises questions about why there is such a big difference in spending and what is taken into account in determining those budgets,” he said, adding that the budget increases came in the context of a long general downturn in crime in Worldwide. Canada.

Ms. Seabrook and the other researchers aren’t done. Their next project is to take data collected on police spending to compare it with how much cities spent on social services over the same period of time.

“We hope this sheds light on what types of services are prioritized by municipalities,” he said.


  • Several Republican politicians in the United States are suggesting it’s time to build a wall along the border with Canada. But when my colleague Jazmine Ulloa traveled to Pittsburg, NH, a border city, she found no support for the idea.

  • A Federal Court judge has ruled that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s use of the Emergencies Act to end a truck convoy protest that overturned Ottawa and several border points was an unjustified violation of civil rights and that the government did not meet the legally required conditions to invoke the emergency law. It. The decision contradicts the conclusion of a public inquiry and the government intends to appeal.

  • Norman Jewison, the Toronto-born director whose films ranged from the socially conscious drama “In the Heat of the Night” to the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” and the romantic comedy “Moonstruck,” has died at age 97.

  • British Columbia is expected to be hit by excessive rainfall and heavy snow from two atmospheric rivers.

  • Jesse Green, the Times’ chief theater critic, cites “Casey and Diana,” by Nick Green, a Toronto playwright, as an example of how to portray Diana, Princess of Wales, without her being “dragged into trauma porn, mauled.” with the excuse of reincarnating her.”

  • A Quebec man who spread conspiracy theories online that the Canadian government was deliberately setting fires to convince people that climate change was happening has now pleaded guilty to setting more than a dozen fires.

  • Nearly a decade after the deaths of nine blue whales trapped in ice near Newfoundland, a DNA analysis of their remains and other blue whales has found a ticking time bomb in blue whale demographics, strange migration patterns and clandestine mating between species.

  • A rare strain of salmonella that has sickened dozens of people, including several newborns, across Canada and the United States has been linked to bearded dragons kept as pets.


Born in Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen studied in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has written about Canada for the New York Times for twenty years.


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