An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Violent Victimization in Canada, 2009

Executive Summary

The costs of victimization of five violent crimes are analyzed in this report: assault, criminal harassment, homicide, robbery, and sexual assault and other sexual offences. Incidents that occurred in 2009 are included, and all costs, or impacts, of those incidents are included, regardless of when the costs were incurred. Only incidents involving adult victims (18 and up) and a non-spousal relationship between the victim and offender are included. For the costs of spousal violence, see Zhang et al. (2012).

Measuring the costs of social phenomena is a well-established and important exercise that increases the understanding of social issues and, when used in conjunction with other informative research, can assist policymakers and allow for insight into resource allocation.

Methodology

There are three cost categories for each crime: justice system costs, victim costs, and third-party costs. There are many individual cost items under each of these cost categories. The cost categories are defined by who bears the impact of the cost, not by who actually pays for the cost. Therefore, medical costs are placed under victim costs, not third-party costs, because, although much of the cost is actually paid for by a third party (e.g., the state or a business), the victim bears the impact of the cost item (e.g., the injury).

All costs, both tangible and intangible, that can be reasonably attributed to the crime incident are included. For example:

  • Justice system costs include: police costs, court costs, and corrections costs;
  • Victim costs include: medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering;
  • Third-party costs include: lost additional output to employers, victim services operating costs, and funeral service costs.

Each cost item uses a different methodology, with the methodology dependent on the nature of the cost item, the available data sources, and resource constraints. For example, due to extremely limited data, medication costs for assault are estimated by first estimating the number of victims who may have sustained a fracture, and multiplying that number by a certain dosage and cost of pain relief medicine. A perfect estimate would involve querying each assault victim about the medication they used because of the incident, but this method is beyond the available resources. The approaches taken due to this and many other data limitations mean that the estimates in this report should be considered conservative.

The two main data sources used are the police-reported Revised Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR2) and the self-reported General Social Survey on Victimization (GSS). The UCR2 covers 99% of the Canadian population and provides data useful for estimating criminal justice system costs; the most notable data being the numbers of incidents, separated by gender of victim, that were brought to the attention of police. The 2009 GSS, Victimization Cycle, is a national random population survey that attempts to capture the victimization experiences of Canadians. Detailed questions are asked of the respondents regarding the nature and outcomes of victimizations, such as whether or not they received medical attention due to the criminal incident, whether or not they reported to the police or received counselling, and if they began experiencing depression or anxiety attacks because of the incident. Based on the results of this survey, it is possible to estimate many costs associated with victimization of these crimes.

Many other data sources are used as well, such as the Adult Criminal Court Survey (ACCS), the Youth Court Survey (YCS), Statistics Canada documents, other government-produced resources, and academic journal articles and books.

Results – incident counts

For all crimes except criminal harassment, the number of “incidents” is the measure of prevalence. For criminal harassment, where typically the offence involves one or more stalking incidents, the number of “victims” is the measure. An incident is a single crime event and can involve any number of offenders or victims. A victim is one person who has been victimized in an incident or incidents. The self-reported GSS estimates the following incident (or victim) numbers for Canada in 2009:

  • Assault: 541,202 against females, 877,592 against males, 1,418,794 total;
  • Criminal harassment: 493,296 female victims, 174,792 male victims, 668,088 total victims;
  • Robbery: 62,575 against females, 80,846 against males, 143,421 total;
  • Sexual assault and other sexual offences: 382,066 against females, 179,741 against males, 561,807 total.

The GSS numbers show that 62% of assaults were against males, 74% of criminal harassment victims were female, and 68% of sexual assault and other sexual offences incidents were against females.

The police-reported UCR2 finds the following incident numbers for Canada in 2009:

  • Assault: 67,083 against females, 92,944 against males, 160,027 total;
  • Criminal harassment: 37,001 against females, 32,741 against males, 69,742 total;
  • Homicide: 83 against females, 370 against males, 453 total;
  • Robbery: 6,723 against females, 13,344 against males, 20,067 total;
  • Sexual assault and other sexual offences: 8,054 against females, 723 against males, 8,777 total.

The UCR2 numbers show that 58% of assaults were against males, 82% of homicides were against males, and 92% of sexual assaults and other offences were against females.

Results – costs

The total cost of victimization of all five crimes was $12,682,992,307 ($12.7 billion) in 2009, amounting to $376 per Canadian.

Victimization of assault cost $2.1 billion; victimization of criminal harassment cost $0.5 billion, victimization of homicide cost $3.7 billion, victimization of robbery cost $1.6 billion, and victimization of sexual assault and other sexual offences cost $4.8 billion. Table ES.1 presents a summary of all costs.

Across all five crimes, and based on which party bears the impact and not the actual financial cost, justice system costs were $1.9 billion, victim costs were $10.6 billion, and third-party costs were $0.2 billion.

It is also useful to know the breakdown by tangible and intangible costs. Across all five crimes, tangible costs were $3.3 billion, accounting for 26% of total costs. Intangible costs were $9.4 billion, accounting for 74% of total costs. Intangible costs include pain and suffering, the value of lost life, and loss of affection and enjoyment to family members.

The tangible costs can further be analyzed by which party bears the actual financial burden of the costs, that is, by who actually pays. It is estimated that the state pays for $2.1 billion of the tangible costs (64%), individuals (including victims) pay for $1.1 billion (33%), and businesses pay for $116 million (4%).

Table ES.1A: Summary of costs - Assault

Justice system costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Criminal justice system costs $224,008,173 $333,028,499 $557,036,672
Total Justice system costs $224,008,173 $333,028,499 $557,036,672
Victim costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Medical costs $64,869,527 $39,852,413 $104,721,940
Lost productivity $173,222,452 $172,601,470 $345,823,922
Intangible costs $350,108,996 $687,974,515 $1,038,083,511
Other costs $1,679,936 $4,717,205 $6,397,141
Total Victim costs $589,880,912 $905,145,603 $1,495,026,515
Third-party costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Employer losses $11,764,694 $6,920,336 $18,685,030
Social services operating costs $14,482,078 $3,450,860 $17,932,938
Total Third-party costs $26,246,772 $10,371,197 $36,617,969
Total Assault $840,135,857 $1,248,545,299 $2,088,681,156

Table ES.1B: Summary of costs - Criminal Harassment

Justice system costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Criminal justice system costs $156,532,189 $119,114,118 $275,646,307
Civil justice system costs $3,503,935 $423,801 $3,927,735
Total Justice system costs $160,036,124 $119,537,918 $279,574,042
Victim costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Medical costs $60,794,438 $12,087,013 $72,881,451
Other costs $90,047,177 $30,309,464 $120,356,641
Total Victim costs $150,841,616 $42,396,476 $193,238,092
Total Criminal Harassment $310,877,739 $161,934,394 $472,812,134

Table ES.1C: Summary of costs - Homicide

Justice system costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Criminal Justice system costs $33,193,046 $138,375,464 $171,568,510
Total Justice system costs $33,193,046 $138,375,464 $171,568,510
Victim costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Medical costs $494,445 $3,312,184 $3,806,629
Intangible costs $628,253,405 $2,830,835,929 $3,459,089,333
Total Victim costs $628,747,850 $2,834,148,113 $3,462,895,962
Third-party costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Social services operating costs $882,081 $2,480,852 $3,362,932
Intangible costs $12,558,750 $56,588,250 $69,147,000
Other costs $465,592 $2,098,050 $2,563,643
Total Homicide $675,847,318 $3,033,690,729 $3,709,538,047

Table ES.1D: Summary of costs - Robbery

Justice system costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Criminal Justice system costs $249,278,137 $463,584,107 $712,862,245
Total Justice system costs $249,278,137 $463,584,107 $712,862,245
Victim costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Medical costs $24,006,280 $6,601,236 $30,607,516
Lost productivity $76,190,058 $85,437,553 $161,627,612
Intangible costs $250,778,892 $300,575,966 $551,354,858
Other costs $31,362,523 $95,538,942 $126,901,466
Total Victim costs $382,337,754 $488,153,697 $870,491,451
Third-party costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Employer losses $4,679,644 $3,684,526 $8,364,170
Social services operating costs $3,141,049 $509,228 $3,650,277
Total Third-party costs $7,820,693 $4,193,754 $12,014,447
Total Robbery $639,436,585 $955,931,559 $1,595,368,143

Table ES.1E: Summary of costs - Sexual Assault and Other Sexual Offences

Justice system costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Criminal justice system costs $137,693,965 $12,355,133 $150,049,098
Total Justice system costs $137,693,965 $12,355,133 $150,049,098
Victim costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Medical costs $64,133,011 $48,988,297 $113,121,308
Lost productivity $210,169,873 $676,900 $210,846,773
Intangible costs $3,140,618,999 $1,151,014,152 $4,291,633,150
Other costs $576,966 $0 $576,966
Total Victim costs $3,415,498,849 $1,200,679,349 $4,616,178,197
Third-party costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Employer losses $8,872,446 $9,555,258 $18,427,704
Social services operating costs $26,208,747 $5,729,081 $31,937,827
Third-party costs $35,081,192 $15,284,339 $50,365,531
Total Sexual assault and other sexual offences $3,588,274,006 $1,228,318,820 $4,816,592,826
Table ES.1F: Summary of Costs
Cost category or item Female victims Male victims Total
Assault $840,135,857 $1,248,545,299 $2,088,681,156
Criminal Harassment $310,877,739 $161,934,394 $472,812,134
Homicide $675,847,318 $3,033,690,729 $3,709,538,047
Robbery $639,436,585 $955,931,559 $1,595,368,143
Sexual assault and other sexual offences $3,588,274,006 $1,228,318,820 $4,816,592,826
Total Costs $6,054,571,506 $6,628,420,801 $12,682,992,307

Note: Categories in bolded font are summations of the cost items listed under those categories.

Conclusion

Crime has a major impact on the lives of Canadians. This report finds that non-spousal, adult victimization of assault, criminal harassment, homicide, robbery, and sexual assault and other sexual offences in 2009 cost Canadians at least $12.7 billion in the form of tangible and intangible costs.

It is hoped that this research will prove valuable to any parties interested in criminal justice issues, and especially to those committed to combating crime in Canada. This study is another step toward the goal of accurately quantifying the economic impacts of crime victimization. Together with future research on the cost effectiveness of crime prevention and justice programs, it can assist Canadians to better understand the potential economic effects of reducing crime.

Date modified: