Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is crediting his party's tough-on-crime agenda with nudging the crime rate in Canada to a 40-year low.

According to the latest data released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday, there were approximately 110,000 fewer crimes reported to Canadian police in 2011 than the year before, pulling the nation’s rate of reported crimes down to its lowest level since 1972.

Only about two million crimes were reported last year, a six per cent drop from the year before.

"Crime rate down 6%," Toews posted on his Twitter account Tuesday morning. "Shows #CPC tough on crime is working."

"The fact of the matter is that when the bad guys are kept in jail longer, they are not out committing crimes and the crime rate will decrease,” Toews’ spokesperson Julie Carmichael later said.

Toews has been at the forefront of the federal Conservative Party's so-called tough-on-crime agenda, epitomized by the omnibus crime bill that was passed in the House of Commons late last year. The initiative is jus six years old, however, and statistics show that crime rates have been decreasing since the early 1990s.

Statistics Canada's report, based on reported incidents that occurred in 2011 prior to the passage of the bill, reflects a general decline in the crime rate since it peaked in 1991. In fact, StatsCan notes that this year marks the 8th consecutive report of an overall drop in the general crime rate across Canada.

The number of serious crimes reported in 2011 also dropped six per cent, the agency said.

This drop in crime was consistent for such major offences as attempted murders, major assaults, sexual assaults, robberies and break-ins.

One expert said the government needs to spend more time analyzing the causes of violent crimes, rather than debating tough legislation.  

"We don't need any more debate on the Criminal Code," said Irvin Waller, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa. “Real solutions are things that reduce shootings and reduce homicides and that means you have to look at what has worked to do that."

In his tweet, Toews nevertheless signalled his party is sticking with its tough-on-crime stance.

"Rate is still 208% above 1962 levels, more work for our gov’t to do," he tweeted.

Increases were indeed recorded for crimes such as homicide, sexual offences against children, impaired driving and most drug offences.

For instance, the number of reported incidents involving sexual offences against children in 2011 increased slightly (3 per cent) to more than 3,800 crimes. Specifically, rates of luring a child via a computer and invitation to sexual touching both saw increases.

Keeping with previous years, however, four out of five crimes reported by police were non-violent in nature. Among the most common offences were crimes such as theft under $5,000, mischief and break-ins.

Though the majority of adults accused of crimes continues to be male, police have reported a 34 per cent increase in the number of women accused of committing offences.

Canadian youth crime rate declines 10 per cent

At the same time, there were about 18,000 fewer youth accused of crimes in 2011.

With just more than 135,600 youth between the ages of 12 and 17 accused of a crime last year, Canada’s youth crime rate declined 10 per cent, also following a general downward trend.

Crime rates overall were highest in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut but lowest in Ontario, where an impassioned debate about stemming gun crimes and youth offences is underway.

The numbers come the same day Toronto Mayor Rob Ford sat down with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss guns crimes and gang violence in the bustling Ontario city.

Details of their conversation were not revealed, but Harper later told reporters that his government is working to stop the flow of illegal guns into Canada at the U.S. border.

Tougher penalties for offenders in gun crimes are also a priority, Harper said Tuesday.

“I think the events in Toronto underscore why these penalties are essential, why it is essential to have tough and certain penalties for gun crime,” he said.

The NDP, however, said the government should focus on crime prevention instead of punishment.

"Things like arguing that we need more laws to create longer penalties or minimum sentences don't have any impact on the kind of things we've seen in Toronto," said NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison.

"People who are responsible for the shootings obviously didn't care about the consequences or they wouldn't have committed those acts in public."

Just a day ago, Ford secured $5 million a year in permanent funding for a Toronto anti-violence program from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. The funding for Toronto comes from a $12.5 million a year provincial anti-violence strategy, all of which has been guaranteed.

Mayor Ford arranged the meetings with Harper and McGuinty after a mass shooting at a block party in an east-end Toronto neighbourhood killed two people and injured 23 others.

The Danzig Street shooting resurrected debate about several issues including the flow of guns in Toronto, support for families in the city’s social housing units and programs for at-risk youth.

The discussion comes just over a month after gunfire erupted in Toronto’s Eaton Centre shopping mall. Two men were killed and several others injured.

But, the latest figures show that Canada’s homicide rate has generally been following the crime rate -- decreasing since the mid-1970s.

According to Statistics Canada, the severity of crimes in most of Canada’s urban centres dropped in 2011, with the most notable decreases occurring in Victoria, Calgary and St. John.

Eastern provinces, in general, tended to have lower crime rates than those in the west.

With files from The Canadian Press