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Thefts on the rise?

April 17th, 2015 · No Comments

New system for counting crimes skews data

By Claire Kilpatrick and Brian Burchell

Area thefts are on the rise according to a new statisical system called Versadex instituted by the Toronto Police Service (TPS). In fact, a summary provided by the police shows that crime appears to be up according to almost all major indicators within 14 Division, but reported thefts in particular portray an alarming trend. Auto thefts in 2014 are up 14 per cent from 2013, robberies (including muggings) are up 20 per cent, and theft over $5,000 (including bank robberies and “white collar” crimes) are up 35 per cent.

14 Division covers a wide swath of downtown spanning Spadina Avenue to the east, Dufferin Street to the west, and Dupont Street in the north down to the waterfront. In addition, the division includes the southern half of Parkdale (south of Queen Street West).

Though the increase in crime appears dramatic, Detective Sergeant Brian Kelly of 14 Division cautioned that there is more to the story. In late 2013, the division started tracking crime according to the new system. All crime incidents are stored on the system.

The way this new system tracks data has skewed the statistics dramatically, resulting, according to Kelly, in the false appearance of a rise in theft.

Kelly provided an example of how the change to Versadex has created a situation where an apples-to-apples comparison is not possible. “Before the changeover, if a lone robber were to approach a couple and demand their phones, it would count as one robbery, because it was one incident. After the changeover, however, that same crime would be recorded as two robberies, because there are two victims.” There have been other changes in the new system as well. According to Constable Victor Kwong of Toronto Police Corporate Communications, theft from cars as a category of crime is no longer reported in the published statistics.

Kelly said that “enough time hasn’t gone by to properly assess the stats from one year to the next.” By this time next year, the new Versadex system will have been in effect long enough to begin gleaning more useful results.

Included in the data is a column about whether or not a crime is “cleared”, meaning solved. The entire service average of cleared cases is 50 per cent. In 2014, 14 Division performed slightly better clearing 53 per cent of cases.

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