The spatial distribution of police-reported youth crime in Toronto

Research Matters
Number 6 - April 2012


How is youth crime distributed in Toronto, and what are the neighbourhood characteristics most strongly associated with this distribution?


Previous research (e.g., Savoie, 2008) has shown that crime tends to be concentrated in certain neighbourhoods or “hot spots,” as opposed to being distributed evenly across a municipality. A spatial analysis was applied to incidents of police-reported youth crime in the city of Toronto, Ontario, in an attempt to determine if there were certain geographic/neighbourhood characteristics predictive of juvenile offending.


Police-reported incidents of youth crime in Toronto were analyzed according to four different types of locations where the crime was committed: outdoor public spaces, commercial establishments, private residences, and schools. These incidents involved at least one accused between the ages of 12 and 17 years. Youth accused refer to those who have been charged (or recommended for charging) by police and those who were dealt with by means other than the formal laying of a charge.

Multivariate analyses were conducted based on eleven potentially relevant factors that relate to theories of criminal opportunities and social control. The following independent variables were assessed to determine their effect on police-reported incidents of youth crime:

Location-specific spatial analyses were carried out only on incidents where crime coordinates were known. Models that predicted which neighbourhood characteristics were most closely linked to juvenile offending were then selected based on their explanatory power.


Most of Toronto's police-reported incidents of youth crime took place in an outdoor public space (33%) or commercial establishment (32%).

Youth property crimes (66%) were most likely to occur in commercial establishments, whereas youth violent crimes tended to take place in outdoor public spaces (35%).

A. Youth crime in outdoor public spaces

In 2006, nearly 2,500 youth crime incidents were committed in an outdoor public space in Toronto, with approximately 63% of these incidents taking place on the street.

Outdoor public spaces with the following characteristics were the most likely to be associated with more incidents of police-reported youth crime:

B. Youth crime in commercial establishments

There were 2,377 incidents of police-reported youth crime in a commercial establishment in 2006, with the vast majority (73%) of these being shoplifting incidents.

The number of incidents of youth crime in commercial establishments was most strongly correlated with:

C. Youth crime in private residences

In 2006, Toronto police reported 1,230 incidents committed in private residences by youths. Almost all occurred in a dwelling unit (50%) or a house (46%). Dwelling units are characterized by low-income households, more renters, and overcrowded residences.

Youth violent crimes were more likely to occur in dwelling units (69%), whereas youth property crime occurred more frequently in houses (62%).

The following variables were most closely associated with more incidents of police-reported youth crime in private residences:

Conversely, there was less youth crime in neighbourhoods with a higher concentration of  immigrants, as measured by the proportion of neighbourhood residents who immigrated to Canada between 1997 and 2006.

D. Youth crime in schools

In 2006, 883 incidents of police-reported youth crime were committed on school property in Toronto, which amounts to approximately one incident of youth crime for every 187 students aged 12 to 17.

Youth violent crime tended to occur during supervised activities (69%), whereas youth property crimes appeared to occur regardless of whether they were supervised.

E. Where do accused youth live?

Police data was used to locate the neighbourhoods of where 7,893 (17%) youths accused of a crime in Toronto in 2006 resided.

Accused youth were more likely to live in neighbourhoods with the following characteristics:

However, they were less likely to inhabit neighbourhoods where there was more immigration.


Neighbourhoods where there is greater economic vulnerability, less access to socio-economic resources and higher crime rates (as evidenced by more incidents of adult crime) seem to put youth at greater risk of being accused of a crime, and also seem to contribute to the commission of crimes. However, immigration may potentially negate these adverse influences.

Spatial analysis allows us to gain neighbourhood-specific information about factors that put youth and communities at risk, allowing program developers to adapt programs   to more effectively meet the needs of these communities and youth.


Charron, M. 2012. Neighbourhood characteristics and the distribution of crime in Toronto: Additional analysis on youth crime. Crime and Justice Research Paper Series. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.

Additional references: Savoie, J. 2008. Analysis of the spatial distribution of crime in Canada: Summary of major trends 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2006. Crime and Justice Research Paper Series. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.

For more information:

Lucie Léonard
National Crime Prevention Centre
Public Safety Canada
269 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8
Phone: 613-957-6362

Date modified: