Crime and the radio : the latest trends

Aug 19th, 2004 | By | Category: Crime Stories

Canada’s national crime rate increased 6% in 2003. And teenagers have been listening to the radio less over the past five years. What is Statistics Canada trying to tell us?

Regular readers of the Statistics Canada Daily may confess to some bewilderment over the issue for Wednesday, July 28, 2004. It reported on two different Canadian data series, side by side: “Crime statistics, 2003” and “Radio listening, fall 2003.” A Mad Magazine reading of the two pieces might imagine they are somehow related. And who knows? Maybe they are.

Youth crime increasing … and other things

Part of the bad news about crime in Canada is that the “national property crime rate rose 4% in 2003, after hitting nearly a 20-year low the year before.” Key categories here are vehicle thefts and residential and business break-ins.

A related and more dramatic contributor to “the increase in overall crime” was that the “rate of counterfeiting increased 72% in 2003.” (Some of this increase, however, “may be attributable to an increase in the detection of counterfeit currency, rather than solely an increase in counterfeiting activity.”)

The good news is that “violent crime” generally continued to decrease in 2003. “The national homicide rate fell 7% last year to its lowest level in over 35 years. A total of 548 homicides were reported to police, 34 fewer than in 2002.”

Similarly, the “national sexual assault rate declined 5% to its lowest level in almost 20 years.” There were “just under 23,000 Level 1 sexual assaults reported by police in 2003, the least serious form of this offence.”

At the same time, “the rate of robberies rose 5%, the first gain since 1996.” Across Canada there were “more than 28,000 robberies in 2003 … nearly half were committed without a weapon.”

There was also more crime generally in some parts of the country than in others – and among certain sectors of the national population. Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and New Brunswick had the lowest total crime rates. The three northern territories had the highest.

Finally, looking at non-geographic sectors everywhere, the “crime rate among young people aged 12 to 17, as measured by the total number accused by police, increased 5% last year. It was the third gain in the last four years.” Or, as the penultimate headline in the article summarized the point : “Youth crime increasing.”

Guess who’s also been listening to the radio less lately?

It is this last point about youth crime that most impressed someone who worked on the Statistics Canada Daily for July 28, 2004.

Immediately after the crime article there was a crisp report on “Radio listening, fall 2003.” It began with: “The amount of time teenagers aged 12 to 17 spent listening to the radio has declined substantially over the past five years, from 11.3 hours per week in the fall of 1999 to 8.5 hours per week in the fall of 2003.” (The report went on to add that the “same downward trend is observed in teenagers’ television-viewing time.”)

There were other aspects of recent radio trends in Canada that the editors of the Daily felt worth some attention: in particular “Quebec anglophones regain their ranking as the most avid radio listeners;” and “Adult contemporary music continues to dominate, while public radio retains third place.”

But the main focus was on how the “amount of time teenagers spent listening to radio continues to decline.”

Brilliant deductions, etc.

By the end of the radio article, no doubt, many readers of the July 28 Daily wanted to reflect briefly on just what all this recent intelligence on crime and the radio must mean.

And who but the oldest among us could already have forgotten about “Youth crime increasing.”

Then, when you set this beside the declining hours that the same group of people “aged 12 to 17” have spent listening to the radio, isn’t it obvious enough what you have got?


A serious point somewhere, perhaps …

All this may just reflect what can happen in the depths of Canada’s federal statistical bureaucracy in Ottawa, in the middle of the cherished and always a little whacky far northern summer. But there may be some kind of more serious point too.

Adults and their institutions, one might even guess, are losing influence over people aged 12 to 17, who are in turn more likely to stray into youthful mistakes. Our society in North America is somehow growing more coarse, undisciplined, and unkempt.

Those who also monitor US television, e.g., may have noticed a recent parallel item on MSNBC, or some similar place. An upscale and nicely dressed lady was complaining that the 13-year-old son of an eminent New York executive had recently called her prim and proper 13-year-old daughter “a whore,” because she would not have sex with him.

And yet what does even this really mean? No doubt any kind of social policy that can give 12 to 17 year olds from any strata of society better and more interesting things to do than commit (often enough rather petty property) crime is worthwhile – if it actually works.

Yet upscale and nicely dressed ladies were also complaining about a coarsening of behavior among young people when the age of the radio first began in the 1920s. And then the new radio technology was thought to be an agent for increasing not decreasing youth crime.

The Great Lakes regional fiction of Alice Munro also reminds us that back in the 1940s and 1950s, in the still upright and virtuous small towns of the countryside, almost all teenage boys called almost all teenage girls whores. If Alice Munro is to be believed, quite a few of the girls were just suitably amused in any case.

But where all this finally ought to lead no doubt does remain some form of good question, especially in the middle of the summer. The Statistics Canada Daily would be an even more fascinating publication if its readers could count on this kind of entertainment more often.


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