Statistics are a funny thing, and figuring out just what they mean is not always that easy.
Take for example the recent StatsCan release where Yorkton’s violent Crime Severity Index ranking for Canadian cities with more than 10,000 population improved significantly in 2012.
According to statistics released 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.
Those are rather significant improvements when comparing year-to-year data, and as a community a lower crime rate has to be viewed as positive.
Certainly when former Mayor James Wilson spear-headed a visioning process bringing together community leaders to crystal ball what they wanted to see in Yorkton’s future, a safe community was one of the primary goals brought forward.
Not surprisingly Yorkton 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 in a Yorkton This Week article last week. “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.”
It may be over stating the impact Council’s request for more information had had on crime going down. It’s hard to fathom such a request impacting a criminal’s decision on whether to break into a house, or not.
And it’s actually disconcerting to have the Mayor say “RCMP and police are doing a much better job of reporting incidents.” You would expect that is indeed part of their job and responsibility to report incidents.
The impact of police on crime is again something a bit hard to measure. A greater police presence may act as a deterrent for some, and in the case of repeat criminals good police work may take such individuals off the street for a time, but ultimately police are there to react to a crime after it has been perpetrated.
Where Maloney does get it totally right is in stating “the numbers alone don’t tell you much about your city or province. Yorkton is a very safe community.”
While the stats are saying crime was down in Yorkton in double digit fashion in 2012 over a year earlier, it is unlikely citizens felt any more safe in our city last year than they did in 2011.
Crime is of course a fact of life in any urban setting. The exact numbers will rise and fall over time based on key arrests, crime prevention initiatives, the public’s reporting of some crimes, and the whims of the criminal element.
That is not to say bad things cannot, on occasion, happen to any of us, but that said our community remains a place we should be happy is as safe as it is.