Yorkton’s violent Crime Severity Index ranking for Canadian cities with more than 10,000 population improved significantly in 2012.
According to statistics released by StatsCan July 25, Yorkton had a 19.1 per cent decrease in the severity of violent crime over 2011 dropping from a ranking of ninth in the country to 16th, even better than the city’s 2010 ranking of 15th.
In terms of the overall Crime Severity Index (CSI), Yorkton also improved from seventh in 2011 to ninth in 2012, a decrease of 13.69 per cent in the index. The city’s non-violent crime severity was also down by double digits in the index by 11.8 per cent resulting in a ranking of ninth last year compared to sixth in 2011.
Mayor Bob Maloney was pleased with numbers, but suggested they don’t tell the whole story.
“These statistics represent a trend that shows crime rates are going down,” he said. “RCMP and police are doing a much better job of reporting incidents because local governments are asking for the information. While crime rates are always a cause for concern, the numbers alone don’t tell you much about your city or province. Yorkton is a very safe community.”
The Crime Severity Index was adopted by Canada in 2006 to overcome limitations of the crime rate and give a better representation of the overall relative safety of communities.
“One limitation of the traditional police-reported crime rate is that it can easily be affected by variations in very common, but less serious crimes,” reads the latest “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2012” Juristat article. “For example, a sharp decline in incidents in which the most serious offence is theft of $5,000 or under, which account for about a quarter of all criminal incidents, may cause the police-reported crime rate to decrease even if the number of more serious incidents, such as homicides or robberies, increases.”
To calculate the CSI, types of crimes are weighted by their severity. The volume of incidents of each offence is multiplied by the weight, the results are added up and divided by the population.
The actual crime rate has not become totally irrelevant, however, as crime could still be on the rise even as the severity decreases.
In fact, the violent crime rate in Yorkton was up two per cent last year over the previous year. The disparity between the increase in violent crime and decrease in violent crime severity is likely explained by a 22 per cent decline in aggravated assault, while assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm was up 73 per cent and simple assault remained unchanged.
Rates of other violent crimes were up almost across the board although it should be noted the actual number of incidents of some charges are so small as to be statistically insignificant. For example, discharging or pointing a firearm was statistically up by 100 per cent, but there were only two incidents compared to one last year.
The overall crime rate (expressed in terms of crimes per 100,000 population), excluding Criminal Code traffic violations, was 16,145 down 10 per cent from 2011.
Sgt. Rob Laurent, RCMP city detachment commander for Yorkton, said the numbers represent a true decline in crime, not just a natural year over year fluctuation.
He attributes the reduction, in large part, to increased staffing (four new officers in recent years) and a partnership with probation services that allows the detachment to keep tabs on offenders who are on release with conditions.
“I firmly believe that is the biggest contributor to the decline,” he said. “We found something that seems to be working, so we’re going to keep at it.”
Maloney said the City, which will add yet another RCMP member in 2014, intends to be proactive in reducing crime.
“We are also investigating other measures in concert with the RCMP to make sure we are keeping our city as safe as possible,” he said. “Having the crime index show progress is a good thing, but we must continue to support our protective services and ensure that we all have a role in making our communities safe.”
Generally speaking, smaller cities ranked much higher in CSI than their provincial representatives among Canada’s 25 Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs). Topping the crime severity list nationally was North Battleford, followed by Thompson, MB, Williams Lake, BC, Yellowknife, NWT, Portage La Prairie, MB, Prince Albert, Langley City, BC, Prince Rupert, BC, Yorkton and Red Deer, AB.
Regina, which had the highest CSI of the CMAs is only 32nd on the list of cities with over 10,000 population. Quebec City, which recorded the lowest CSI of the CMAs was 181st on the overall list.
The same is true of violent crime severity. Thompson topped that list while Winnipeg, with the highest violent CSI of the CMAs, didn’t even crack the Top 10.
Crime also remains worse in western Canada than in the east according to the statistics. In terms of overall CSI, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia occupy the first 35 spots before La Tuque, Quebec shows up. For violent crime severity, the first eastern city doesn’t rank until 28th place with Thunder Bay, which also reported the highest homicide rate in the country followed by Winnipeg.
Nationally, the crime rate is at its lowest point since 1972.