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The Spatial and Social Patterning of Property and Violent Crime in Toronto Neighbourhoods: A Spatial-Quantitative Approach

Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON M5B 2K3, Canada
Business Intelligence & Analytics Unit. Toronto Police Service, 40 College Street, Toronto, ON M5G 2J3, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf. 2019, 8(1), 51;
Received: 18 December 2018 / Revised: 9 January 2019 / Accepted: 16 January 2019 / Published: 21 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue GIS for Safety & Security Management)
PDF [2552 KB, uploaded 22 January 2019]


Criminal activities are often unevenly distributed over space. The literature shows that the occurrence of crime is frequently concentrated in particular neighbourhoods and is related to a variety of socioeconomic and crime opportunity factors. This study explores the broad patterning of property and violent crime among different socio-economic stratums and across space by examining the neighbourhood socioeconomic conditions and individual characteristics of offenders associated with crime in the city of Toronto, which consists of 140 neighbourhoods. Despite being the largest urban centre in Canada, with a fast-growing population, Toronto is under-studied in crime analysis from a spatial perspective. In this study, both property and violent crime data sets from the years 2014 to 2016 and census-based Ontario-Marginalisation index are analysed using spatial and quantitative methods. Spatial techniques such as Local Moran’s I are applied to analyse the spatial distribution of criminal activity while accounting for spatial autocorrelation. Distance-to-crime is measured to explore the spatial behaviour of criminal activity. Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) linear regression is conducted to explore the ways in which individual and neighbourhood demographic characteristics relate to crime rates at the neighbourhood level. Geographically Weighted Regression (GWR) is used to further our understanding of the spatially varying relationships between crime and the independent variables included in the OLS model. Property and violent crime across the three years of the study show a similar distribution of significant crime hot spots in the core, northwest, and east end of the city. The OLS model indicates offender-related demographics (i.e., age, marital status) to be a significant predictor of both types of crime, but in different ways. Neighbourhood contextual variables are measured by the four dimensions of the Ontario-Marginalisation Index. They are significantly associated with violent and property crime in different ways. The GWR is a more suitable model to explain the variations in observed property crime rates across different neighbourhoods. It also identifies spatial non-stationarity in relationships. The study provides implications for crime prevention and security through an enhanced understanding of crime patterns and factors. It points to the need for safe neighbourhoods, to be built not only by the law enforcement sector but by a wide range of social and economic sectors and services. View Full-Text
Keywords: spatial analysis; major crime; Toronto; neighbourhood; GWR; OLS; marginalisation spatial analysis; major crime; Toronto; neighbourhood; GWR; OLS; marginalisation

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Wang, L.; Lee, G.; Williams, I. The Spatial and Social Patterning of Property and Violent Crime in Toronto Neighbourhoods: A Spatial-Quantitative Approach. ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf. 2019, 8, 51.

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