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Crime severity index creeps upward

Prince George’s crime severity index is moving in the wrong direction.

The annual Statistics Canada report gave the city a score of 154.39 in 2016, up 8.3 points over 2015 and the second year in a row there was an increase. The city now sits 14th among the 311 communities Statistics Canada analyzes.

The crime severity index is what Macleans magazine uses to determine its Most Dangerous Cities title … a dubious crown that Prince George has worn a few times. Macleans runs through its own filters to determine its ranking which means even though Prince George ranks 14th on the StatsCan ranking, it could finish higher in the Maclean’s ranking. The Maclean’s ranking of Canada’s Most Dangerous Cities has been a sore point for local officials as it affects perceptions of the city.

Nationally

The police-reported Crime Severity Index, which measures the volume and severity of crime, increased one per cent in 2016 over the previous year. This marked the second consecutive rise in the index following 11 years of declines. Even with this increase, the index is still 29% lower than it was in 2006.

The CSI is a measure of police-reported crime that reflects the relative seriousness of individual offences and tracks changes in crime severity. It indicates whether police-reported crime was relatively more or less serious than in previous years. For ease of interpretation, the index is converted to 100 for the base year of 2006.

The rise in Canada’s CSI in 2016 was primarily driven by a continued increase in the rate of fraud. In addition, increases were reported in rates of administration of justice offences (such as breach of probation), sexual violations against children, and child pornography. At the same time, fewer police-reported incidents of breaking and entering, mischief and robbery were reported. Together, these changes contributed to a slight increase in Canada’s CSI compared with 2015.

The traditional police-reported crime rate, which measures the volume of police-reported crime relative to population size, remained stable in 2016. Since peaking in 1991, Canada’s crime rate has been on a downward trend, with the only increases reported in 2003 and 2015.

There were almost 1.9 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) reported by police in 2016, approximately 27,700 more incidents than in 2015.

These data represent incidents that come to the attention of police, either through reporting by the public or pro-active policing. Information from the General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization suggest most incidents of victimization, both violent and non-violent, never come to the attention of the police. Most recent statistics show that for Canadians aged 15 years and over who were victims of eight specific crime types, just under one-third (31%) of incidents were reported to the police in 2014. In general, the more serious an incident, the greater the likelihood that it came to the attention of police.

Of those victims who did not report to the police, almost 8 in 10 indicated that the incident was too minor to be worth taking the time to report. While a number of violent crime victims felt that it was a personal matter (63%), reasons for not reporting incidents of household victimization to police appeared to be primarily linked to a somewhat low expectation of results. These include believing that the police would not consider the incident important enough (66%), that they would not be able to identify the perpetrator or find the property stolen (65%), or that there was a lack of evidence for meaningful police action (61%).

Seven provinces and territories report decreases in Crime Severity Index

From 2015 to 2016, seven provinces and territories reported decreases in their CSI, while Yukon reported no change. Decreases were reported in the Northwest Territories (-9%), Quebec (-3%), Prince Edward Island (-3%), Nova Scotia (-3%), New Brunswick (-2%), Alberta (-1%), and British Columbia (-1%). In contrast, the CSI increased in Saskatchewan (+9%), Manitoba (+8%), Newfoundland and Labrador (+6%), Nunavut (+4%) and Ontario (+4%).

As in previous years, CSI and crime rates were highest in the territories. The Western provinces reported the next highest CSIs and crime rates. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan continued to have the highest overall CSI (148.8) and crime rate (11,746 incidents per 100,000 population). Prince Edward Island (48.5) reported the lowest CSI in 2016, while Quebec continued to report the lowest crime rate (3,247 incidents per 100,000 population).

Just under two-thirds of census metropolitan areas record an increase in the severity of police-reported crime

From 2015 to 2016, 20 of 33 of Canada’s census metropolitan areas (CMAs) reported increases in their CSI. The largest increases were recorded in the CMAs of Winnipeg (+16%), Regina (+15%) and Brantford (+13%). Winnipeg’s increase was a result of more reported incidents of robbery and breaking and entering. A higher CSI in Regina was primarily due to more incidents of fraud and attempted murder. The CMAs with the largest declines in CSI were Trois-Rivières (-14%) and Victoria (-12%).

As has been the case since 2010, Regina (125.8) and Saskatoon (117.8) were the CMAs with the highest CSIs. These Saskatchewan CMAs were followed in the CSI rankings in 2016 by Edmonton (105.7), Winnipeg (103.9), Kelowna (100.3), Vancouver (94.3) and Abbotsford–Mission (91.4). These seven CMAs also had the highest police-reported crime rates in 2016.

The CMAs with the lowest CSIs continued to be Québec (45.2), Barrie (45.4) and Toronto (47.5), followed by Trois-Rivières (48.7).

For half the violent crime types, rates decrease in 2016

In 2016, Canada’s violent CSI, which measures the overall volume and severity of violent crime, remained stable. Rates for half the violent crime types decreased from 2015 to 2016, with the largest decline reported for criminal harassment (-7%). Violent crimes for which rates increased included sexual violations against children (+30%); violations causing death other than homicide (+14%); the relatively new violations related to the commodification of sexual activity (+11%); aggravated sexual assault (+6%); forcible confinement or kidnapping (+4%); the use, discharge, or pointing of firearms (+3%); threatening or harassing phone calls (+3%); assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (+1%), and; aggravated assault (+1%).

The national homicide rate decreases in 2016, but variation is observed across the provinces and territories

In 2016, homicides represented less than 0.2% of all violent crimes. Police reported 611 homicides in Canada in 2016, two more than the previous year. Due to growth in Canada’s population, the homicide rate decreased 1% from 1.70 homicides per 100,000 population in 2015 to 1.68 homicides per 100,000 population in 2016.

There was little change at the national level, due to a mixture of notable increases seen across some provinces and notable decreases seen across others. Ontario (+32) and Saskatchewan (+10) reported the largest increases in the number of homicides in 2016. In contrast, there were large decreases in the number of homicides in Alberta (-17), Quebec (-12) and British Columbia (-10).

With eight homicides in 2016, Thunder Bay recorded the highest homicide rate among the CMAs (6.64 homicides per 100,000 population). Edmonton (47 homicides, or a rate of 3.39), and Regina (8 homicides, or a rate of 3.23) had the next-highest homicide rates. In 2016, no homicides were reported in Trois-Rivières, Kingston or Greater Sudbury.

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