MacLeans Mag Misleads

The March 16 2009 edition of McLean’s Magazine shows twin handguns displayed on either side of "The Most DANGEROUS Cities in Canada". The cover solicits the reader with "Who’s got the highest rates of murder, robbery and assault. Plus: our gang violence epidemic."

This is a prime example of the profit-seeking misleading the gullible. Reminiscent of "if it bleeds, it leads", the editors of MM conflate crime statistics with dangerousness. The question we need to ask is, "dangerous to whom?"

The risks of becoming a victim are not distributed evenly. A Statistics Canada survey asked 24,000 randomly selected Canadians about their victimization experiences in 2004. Young men between the ages of 15 and 24 years old who spend more than five evenings a week in public space where liquor is consumed are 20 times more likely to become victims of violent crime than the elderly who typically spend evenings at home. It’s all about lifestyle and with whom you hang around.

The national data shows that the crime rate reached its lowest point in 30 years in 2007. Police reported a 7% decline in crime, the third consecutive annual decrease. (Data for 2008 is not yet available.)

National data are poor at describing conditions faced by Canadians at the local level. It gives no comfort to residents of the Lower Mainland to learn that national homicide levels are at an historically low level.

But MacLean’s sensationalistic cover story gives the public no reason to trust the media.

* The graph is from Stats Canada’s Juristat Catalogue no. 85-002-X, Vol. 28, no. 7.

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