A new study says crime isn't just a big-city phenomenon in Canada. In fact, rural areas had the highest murder rates while small urban areas had higher overall crime rates.

The Statistics Canada study of police-reported data in 2005 found that overall crime rate in small urban areas was 43 per cent higher than in large urban areas, and 58 per cent higher than in rural areas.

Rates of total violent crime, total property crime and break-ins were also highest in small urban areas.

Of the 658 homicides in Canada in 2005 with a known location, 427 were committed in large urban areas, 95 in small urban areas and 135 in rural areas.

Taking population into account, the homicide rate of 2.5 homicides per 100,000 people in rural areas was actually higher than the rate of 2.0 in large urban areas and the rate of 1.7 in small urban areas -- a pattern that has held constant over the past decade.

However, robbery and car thefts were much more likely to occur in big Canadian cities compared to smaller centres or rural areas.

"The robbery rate for large urban areas was more than double that for small urban areas and almost 10 times that for rural areas. The motor vehicle theft rate in large urban areas was about 25% higher than in small urban areas and 80% higher than in rural areas," according to the study.

Weapons

In Quebec and Ontario, the presence of weapon in the commission of violent crimes was more frequent in the big cities than in small cities or rural areas. About one in five violent crimes in the big cities of these two provinces involved a weapon of some sort, most commonly a knife.

The proportion of violent crimes involving a firearm was about two to three times higher in large urban areas. In 2005, 3.2 per cent of violent crimes in the large urban areas of Quebec and Ontario involved a firearm, compared to 1.1 per cent in small urban areas and 1.4 per cent in rural areas.

Other stats:

  • Lowest crime rates across the country were found in rural areas of all provinces. This wasn't the case in Alberta, where the rate was lowest in the large urban areas.
  • In all urban and rural areas, highest overall crime rates were reported in the small urban areas of the four western provinces. Lowest overall crime rates were observed in the rural areas of Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick.
  • Although homicide rates were highest in rural areas at the national level, this was not the case in all provinces. In Ontario and British Columbia, the highest homicide rates reported were in large urban areas.
  • Highest homicide rates in the country were found in the rural areas of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.

Statistics Canada says large urban areas are defined as Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs). A CMA represents one or more adjacent municipalities centered on an urban core of at least 100,000 persons. Based on police boundaries, large urban areas accounted for 65.5 per cent of the Canadian population in 2005.