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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's crime rate fell last year to its lowest rate in 30 years, continuing a trend that began in the early 1990s, figures released on Thursday show.
The overall crime rate in 2007 was down 7 percent from the year before with fewer serious violent crimes, such as murder, and a lower rate of "high volume" crimes such as minor property thefts, Statistics Canada reported.
It was the third consecutive year in which the national crime rate dropped, according to the federal statistical agency, which collected the data from police reports.
An aging population and changing attitudes towards violence are likely part of the reason the crime rate has continued to improve on a percentage basis since its peak in 1991, according to Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd.
"We are less tolerant of violence," he said.
Canada recorded 594 homicides in 2007, or about two for every 100,000 people, a 3 percent decline from 2006, according to the report.
Boyd cautioned that the figures also indicate that while there may be fewer people committing crimes, a "harder core" of individuals is committing more crime.
Police in some cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have complained of increasing gun use by gang members. Both of those cities have suffered several high-profile shooting incidents in recent years.
Crime rates were down in all provinces and territories except Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. As in the past, the figures show residents of Western Canada were more likely to be crime victims than those in the East.
Among the few crimes to increase last year were drug offenses and impaired driving, but the report cautions that may be the result of a change last year in police enforcement practices.
Canada's recent efforts to improve security features in its paper money may also be paying off. Counterfeiting complaints were down 54 percent last year.
Statisticians warn that many victims never report crimes to police, with complaints made in only about one-third of the cases of theft and vandalism that actually occur.
A survey released on Monday by Angus Reid Strategies found half of Canadians says the crime level in their community has increased in the past five years, although 82 percent said they had not been a victim themselves.
Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson