Statement April 26, 2017 Recommendations Regarding the Collection of ‘Unfounded’ Incidents via the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey

    04/26/17 - 04/26/18

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    On February 10, 2017, Directeur Mario Harel, President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) issued a statement with regards to sexual assault investigations (https://cacp.ca/news/cacp-statement-sexual-assault-investigations.html). One of the key requests was to have the CACP Police Information and Statistics Committee (POLIS) ‘examine how statistics are recorded and reported to Statistics Canada and make recommendations on how reliable and consistent statistical information may best be collected.’

    At their April 4-5, 2017 meeting, the CACP POLIS Committee, in partnership with Statistics Canada, addressed the feasibility of reinstating collection and the need for consistent and standardized reporting of all unfounded incidents, including sexual assault. As a result of that meeting, on April 6, 2017, POLIS presented to the CACP Board of Directors a series of recommendations regarding the collection of unfounded incidents via the Uniform Crime Reporting survey. These recommendations (attached) were unanimously accepted.

    “Moving forward, the recommendations provided by POLIS allow police to report such incidents in a more victim-centered manner - one that correctly conveys our belief in the victim regardless of whether or not the incident can be substantiated through the investigative process,” stated Directeur Harel.

    “There are changes required throughout the criminal justice system and there is no doubt that continued improvements need to be made. Victims must have confidence in going to the police knowing that we will respect their dignity and have their best interests at heart. This is what we strive for. This is where we want to be. Police services will continue to work with victim serving agencies and victims’ advocates to enhance procedures and share best practices,” he continued.

    “At this time, I am very pleased with the attention the CACP POLIS Committee and Statistics Canada dedicated to this effort. I am also very heartened to see the great deal of progress that has been made by police services throughout Canada in reviewing past cases of sexual assault.“

    The CACP encourages all police services to follow these recommendations that adopt a more victim-centered approach for the classification and reporting of criminal incidents, including sexual assaults, going forward. More detailed information on changes to the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey will be provided to police services by Statistics Canada over the coming months.


    Further information is being provided by Statistics Canada through their Media Relations group at 613-951-4636 or STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca.

    The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police was established in 1905 and represents approximately 1,000 police leaders from across Canada.  The Association is dedicated to the support and promotion of efficient law enforcement and to the protection and security of the people of Canada. Through its member police chiefs and other senior police executives, the CACP represents in excess of 90% of the police community in Canada which include federal, First Nations, provincial, regional and municipal, transportation and military police leaders.

    Recommendations Regarding the Collection of Unfounded Incidents via the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey Police Information and Statistics Committee of the CACP

    April 6, 2017


    Statistics Canada collected data on unfounded sexual assaults beginning in 1962, with the introduction of the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey. At the time, police services were required to submit counts of unfounded incidents along with other crime data. Over time, however, inconsistent reporting led to poor data quality. The last time unfounded incidents were published as part of an annual crime statistics publication by Statistics Canada’s Centre for Canadian Justice Statistics was in December 1994. The last time rates of unfounded sexual assault were published was in July 2003.

    In 2006, Statistics Canada and the Police Information and Statistics Committee (POLIS) of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) conducted a review of police-reported unfounded data. It was found that not all police services were reporting unfounded incidents and among those that were, not all unfounded records were being sent. It was therefore recommended that data on all unfounded incidents, not just sexual assaults, should no longer be collected or released by Statistics Canada. The report also makes recommendations for police and Statistics Canada to improve the classification of incidents.

    Following national media attention in February 2017, several police agencies across the country announced that they would review sexual assault cases investigated in the last few years that were labeled as “unfounded”. The members of the POLIS committee have worked together to make a number of recommendations regarding the reinstatement of the collection of UCR data on unfounded criminal incidents.


    This item was a significant part of the agenda of the April 2017 POLIS meeting. The meeting addressed the feasibility of reinstating collection, processing and dissemination of unfounded incidents and reviewed definitions for unfounded and founded incidents. The objective of the meeting was to arrive at recommendations to ensure clarity, consistency and comparability in the data.

    Any change to data collection and reporting of unfounded incidents will have resource and cost implications for police services as the data providers and for Statistics Canada.


    The POLIS committee supports the reinstatement of the collection, analysis and dissemination of criminal unfounded incidents, including sexual assault, by Statistics Canada starting in 2018 for 2017 reference period. The committee also supports analysis of the 2016 data to determine the impact on the data of the reviews by the police services.

    The POLIS committee recommends to Statistics Canada and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Board of Directors that all police adopt a common approach for the classification and reporting of criminal incidents, including sexual assaults, going forward.

    The POLIS committee recommends to Statistics Canada and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Board of Directors that definitions of unfounded and founded criminal incidents, including those of sexual assaults, be updated to reflect the POLIS-approved definitions.

    • The notion that unfounded criminal incidents should only contain cases where it has been determined through police investigation that offences reported to the police did not occur nor were attempted, will be reinforced through a simplified definition and the creation of guidelines for classification.
    • The definition of founded criminal incidents should be expanded to also include third party reports and incidents where there is no credible evidence to confirm that an incident did not take place.


    • Additional categories to characterize unsolved incidents should be added to enhance analysis and improve data quality.
    • POLIS does not support the classification of incidents as “unsubstantiated”. POLIS recommends they be reported as founded incidents that are not cleared because police are not able to substantiate.

    Going forward, the POLIS committee recognizes that the implementation of recommendations will have an impact on both clearance rates and on the number criminal incidents reported to Statistics Canada, but will improve the comparability of statistics across jurisdictions.

    The POLIS committee also recognizes that the implementation of prescribed changes to the classification of criminal incidents will be phased in and will have an incremental impact on the data reported to Statistics Canada going forward.

    Statistics Canada and POLIS will work in collaboration with other partners and independent experts to implement changes and develop statistical reporting training material.