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Quesnel #3, Prince George #14 on Maclean’s dangerous cities ranking

Prince George is ranked #14 on Maclean’s magazine’s annual rank of the country’s most dangerous cities.

North Battleford, Saskatchewan was ranked #1, Quesnel was ranked #3, William Lake #7, Terrace #11, and Dawson Creek #13.

Maclean’s compiles an annual, interactive ranking that uses Statistics Canada data to reveal where incidents of serious crime per capita are most frequent, and whether things are getting better or worse over time. It uses StatsCan’s crime severity index – a number different from the general crime rate that measures both the volume and severity of crimes in a municipality as compared to the national average – to compare 237 urban centres that have a population of 10,000 or more.

With the national index currently set at 75, a higher number than that in the ranking means a place sees a higher rate and severity of crime than average; a lower number means it sees a lower rate and severity. The national index is considerably lower than it was when the CSI was created in 2006. But it has risen steadily over the past four years. According to Statistics Canada, the most recent increase comes predominantly from a rise in reports of fraud, level 1 sexual assault (meaning without a weapon or evidence of bodily harm) and theft.

Local officials have, for years, disputed the Maclean’s ranking system because tabulates the rankings according to 100,000 people. That, say officials, gives an unfair ranking for communities with less than 100,000, like Prince George.

With only one murder reported in Prince George during the reporting period, the homicide rate is listed at 1.26/100,000 people. The national average is 1.76.

The Maclean’s ranking reported that assaults dropped in Prince George to 597 actual cases, putting the ranking, per 100,000 people, at 751.42.

The reporting did note that the number of sexual assaults increased to 79 during the reporting period putting the ranking at 99.43/100,000.

The ranking reported that there were a decrease in the number of robberies (87) and break and enters (643) but an increase in the number of fraud investigations (392).

Quesnel, B.C. has the dubious honour of jumping from eighth to third place for overall crime; from 15th to fifth place for violent crime; and from 114th place to second place for the largest five-year change in its CSI. Quesnel’s CSI rose from 180 in 2013 to 292 in 2018.

Wetaskiwin, Alta., where the crime rate continues to increase the fastest, dropped to fourth place this year in terms of overall crime with a CSI of 270 (258 last year). Portage la Prairie, Man. is still in fifth; Prince Albert, Sask. and its surrounding area dropped to sixth from fourth.

For the fourth year in a row, the highest rates of violent crime, specifically, happened in Thompson, a city of 14,535 in northern Manitoba and the largest in the region. It had the highest rates of homicide, assault, sexual assault, cocaine trafficking and youth crime. We sent reporter Shannon VanRaes to investigate the story behind those trends (read her feature article here).

Rates of crime continue to be higher in parts of western Canada. Of the top 50 locations where overall crime was highest, 39 were in the Prairies or B.C. Of the top 50 locations for violent crime, 31 out of 50 were west of Ontario. Organizing the list by the type of crime committed, the only place east of Manitoba that was worst on a particular offence was St. Catharines and the Niagara region in Ontario, which had the highest rate of cannabis trafficking in 2018, before weed was legalized.

Three out of the five places that had the fastest-improving crime rates over the past five years were in B.C. The prize goes to Whistler, and second place to New Westminster. Saint-Jérôme, Que., had the third-fastest-improving crime rate, followed by Squamish and area, B.C., and Charlottetown, P.E.I.

LaSalle, Ont., next to Windsor, had the least crime per capita, according to the most recent stats available. Thames Centre, Ont., next to London, had the least violent crime.

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