Crime severity index falls despite increase in violent crime

Latest data from Statistics Canada shows decline in Prince Albert's crime severity index offset by increase in assaults and sexual violence

Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons

Prince Albert’s Crime Severity index fell in 2018 after reaching a four-year high in 2017, despite an increase in reported violent crime.

The 2018 Crime Severity Index (CSI) data was released Monday by Statistics Canada. The Crime Severity Index assigns weights to different crimes based on how long a typical prison sentence for the offence is. It uses those weights to determine not just how many offences occur, but how severe the crime is in any given community.

The crime rates are reported to the national statistics agency by police forces across the country.

According to Monday’s data, Prince Albert’s crime severity index fell from 253.27 in 2017 to 238.04 in 2018. The six per cent dip in CSI occurred despite the violent crime severity index increasing by 14.2 per cent from 252.96 to 288.87.

That increase was offset by a decrease in non-violent crime. The non-violent CSI fell by 13.29 per cent to 219.19.

While previous years’ datasets included a list of all communities that could be sorted by their CSI, this year’s release didn’t include that data.

However, in 2017, Prince Albert’s violent crime severity index was behind Thompson, Man., North Battleford, Wetaskiwin, Alta. Meadow Lake and Portage La Prairie, Man.

Prince Albert’s CSI was lower than that of those communities. However, some of those other smaller cities, such as Wetaskiwin, saw their violent crime index fall lower than Prince Albert’s.

Assault up, break-ins down

Taking a closer look at Prince Albert’s data, the number of violent incidents, as well as the severity of violent crime in the city, increased. There were 134 more violent Criminal Code violations in Prince Albert in 2018 than there were a year prior. The violent crime rate, which measures the number of violent crimes committed per population, increased by 13.19 per cent.

The increase in violent offences was mostly driven by an increase across all categories of assault. Other violent offences that saw increases included sexual assault level one, sexual violations against children, forcible confinement and robbery.

At the same time, the number of property crime violations fell. There were 130 fewer police-reported property crime violations in Prince Albert in 2018 as compared to a year prior. The 3,402 reported property crime offences were the fewest in three years. The property crime rate fell by 4.11 per cent.

Reported break-ins were down, as were charges of possession of stolen property and theft of motor vehicles. Theft over $5,000 saw a small increase, while theft under $5,000 decreased slightly. The number of reported incidents of fraud also fell.

Incidences of impaired driving fell as well. Prince Albert saw 137 impaired driving charges laid in 2018, a five-year low. The impaired driving crime rate fell by 16.32 per cent.

In total, the police service reported 7,335 violations in 2018, a decrease of almost 700. Of those, only 65 were deemed unfounded. A total of 3,433 offences resulted in charges. 3,483 people were charged. Almost all of those charged were adults. Only 306 youth were charged, a decrease of about 90. The number of youth charged hit a five-year low.

Police reviewing data

In a written statement sent to media outlets, the Prince Albert Police Service said it is reviewing the data published Monday.

The statement notes that the CSI is based on the ratio of crime versus the population base for a community as opposed to the totality of crime in communities.

“Local police officers respond to numerous calls for service every day and serve a large transient population,” the statement reads.

“The report notes the city’s core population is just over 37,000 people, but figures from the City of Prince Albert show the retail population of the local community – or the number of people who come to the city for appointments, shopping and entertainment each day – is actually around 190,000 people.”

The police said they review the data each year to ensure that they are aware of the underpinning issues that cause crime in the community.

“The police service acknowledges an increase in violent crime as outlined in the report and remains committed to working toward ways to combat violence in our community,” they wrote.

“The police service supports numerous community-based initiatives and participates on boards and committees aimed at helping youth, families and individuals lead healthy and positive lifestyles.” The release said the police would spend the next few weeks reviewing the numbers and studying the information. While the report doesn’t include 2019 data, officers review statistics “on a daily basis to study trends and ensure resources are being deployed in an accurate and effective manner,” the force said

The big picture

Nationally, the crime rate and CSI increased for the fourth consecutive year.

According to Statistics Canada, the change was the result of higher police-reported rates of several offences, including fraud., sexual assault, shoplifting under $5,0000 and theft over $5,000.

Police agencies in Canada reported over two million Criminal Code incidents in 2018, almost 69,800 more than in 2017.

While the national crime rate increased, it is still 17 per cent lower than it was in 2008.

Statistics Canada noted that results from the most recent survey on victimization show that just under one-third of violent and non-violent incidents were reported to the police. Only police-reported statistics are captured int eh CSI and crime rate numbers.

About half the country saw its CSI decrease. Three provinces and one territory saw improvements in their CSI, including Saskatchewan. Yukon had the largest decrease, with its CSI falling by seven per cent, followed by Saskatchewan’s CSI dipping by three per cent and both Quebec and Nova Scotia seeing drops of two per cent.

BC and Alberta saw their CSIs remain stable. Elsewhere, the measure rose. PEI saw the biggest increase, with its CSI jumping by 17 per cent.

While this year’s release didn’t include data for smaller communities, it did include a list of CSI by census metropolitan area, which consists of neighbouring municipalities around a major urban core. It must have a population of at least 100,000 to count as a CMA.

Lethbridge was the CMA with the highest CSI, followed by Regina, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton.

Number Indigenous victims of homicide disproportionately high

While homicides were down nationally, Indigenous peoples accounted for 22 per cent of homicide victims, despite making up only five per cent of Canada’s population.

Of the 140 Indigenous victims of homicide, 96 were male and 44 female. The number of male Indigenous victims decreased for the first time since 2014, while there were six more female victims compared to 2017.  The rate of homicide of Indigenous peoples was five-times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous people.

Reported sexual assaults up

The number of sexual assaults reported by police rose in 2018. It was the fourth consecutive annual increase in the rate of sexual assault. Statistics Canada connected the data to an increase in social awareness of sexual assault victims brought on by the Me Too movement.

Still, the agency wrote, the number of sexual assaults reported by police “is likely an underestimation of the true extent of sexual assault in Canada.” Many incidents never get reported to the police. The percentage of sexual assaults reported to police classified as unfounded fell from 14 per cent to 11 per cent.

 Nationally, police also saw a 13 per cent increase in the rate of methamphetamine offences.