Lethbridge, Alta. leads the country in crime severity, StatCan says
Lethbridge mayor Chris Spearman says even though Lethbridge has the country's highest crime severity index among major cities, it remains a safe place to live and do business.
CALGARY -- New data from Statistics Canada has grim news for a bustling city in southern Alberta.
The agency released its results of the Crime Severity Index (CSI) on Friday, a measure that looks at all police-reported crime and weighs it against volume and seriousness of the offences.
This year's data put Lethbridge, Alta., the province's fourth most populous city, at the top of the list.
"The health and safety of our community is always our number-one priority which is why we take reports like this very seriously," said Lethbridge mayor Chris Spearman
The city was rated against Canada's 35 largest census metropolitan areas (CMA) in the study, and was given a CSI of 141.8 in 2019, two per cent higher than in 2018.
According to StatCan's data, Lethbridge's crime is more severe than Toronto (CSI 54.2), Montreal (CSI 58) or even Vancouver (95.4). The next highest CMA on the list was Winnipeg (131.7).
"When you look at that index, some of the weights you put on are for property crimes, frauds and even thefts, are higher values than they put on common assaults. So, when you look at the totality of what we’re measuring and what we’re dealing with at the city, it’s not a real surprise to see that these rates are still trending high because a lot of the things we are dealing with the drug crisis, with stolen vehicles, break-and-enters to residences, garages," said LPS deputy chief Scott Woods.
Both of the other Alberta cities rated also received higher than average CSIs, with Edmonton given a 114.9 while Calgary had a 92.9. The national average for 2019 is 79.5.
Alberta's crime rate rose by seven per cent between 2018 and 2019 while its CSI increased by five per cent, StatCan says.
However, in terms of the violent crime severity index (VCSI), Lethbridge is much further down the list.
"Lethbridge remains a safe city in which to live and do business. The report shows that in 2019 we we’re just one of four municipalities that reported no homicides," Spearman said.
VCSI consists of offences that involve violent crimes such as homicide, sexual assault, sexual violations against children, robbery and violent firearms offences.
Lethbridge's VCSI for 2019 is 102.7 while the highest VCSI is held by Winnipeg (174).
SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN CHILD PORN OFFENCES
The report also included the highest annual increase of police-reported child pornography in more than a decade.
StatCan says the national rate of that crime increased by 46 per cent, with police reporting 8,815 incidents in 2019, 2,881 more than in the previous year.
While the highest increases were in B.C. (+1,320 incidents), Ontario (+947 incidents) and Quebec (+310 incidents), Alberta also saw an increase in that crime in 2019.
The increase in reports of child porn, according to StatCan, is mainly due to more cases being brought forward to authorities.
NO FULL DATA ON COVID-19'S IMPACT ON CRIME
StatCan also says the rate of police-reported crime in Canada jumped by five per cent in 2019, the fifth year in a row that's seen an increase in the CSI.
Data shows police reported to more than 2.2 million Criminal Code incidents (not including traffic incidents) in 2019.
However, StatCan says the 2019 details do not include the large-scale impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It says select police services across Canada are collecting data on specific types of crime and calls for service between March and December 2020.
"Initial results found that the selected police services reported 16 per cent fewer criminal incidents during the first four months of the pandemic (March to June) compared with the same months in 2019. In contrast, calls to police for service were up seven per cent, particularly calls to conduct wellness checks and calls to attend domestic disturbances."
However, when it comes down to it, Lethbridge police say they need the community's help to prevent crime.
"Crime is a community problem. Some of the things, some of the programs we’re exploring, we need a little bit more community engagement to help us along with that," Woods said. "We have a high number of vehicles stolen on a yearly basis that are either left running or unattended or with the keys in them. These are things were going to be asking the public to help us out with going forward."
There are no details on when another report on crime statistics for the rest of 2020 will be published.