The province has the highest crime rate and Crime Severity Index (CSI), according to annual police-reported numbers released by Statistics Canada through the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
Saskatoon’s crime rate went up to 8,229 incidents per 100,000 people in 2014 while its CSI went up 10 points since 2013 to 109.7. The increase, which moved Saskatoon to the top of all Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs), above Regina, has been driven primarily by more break and enters.
Regina, which has consistently been at the top of the list, saw its crime rate decline four incidents from 2013 to 7,858 and its CSI was 102.8, down three points.
The CSI accounts for the seriousness of crimes by considering conviction rates and sentence lengths.
Crime and crime severity in Canada continued to decline for the 11th consecutive year. At 66.7, the country had the lowest CSI since the stat began being tracked in 1998. However, there was a 41 per cent increase in the number of police-reported child pornography cases and a 39 per cent rise in terrorism cases.
The silver lining is year-over-year, both crime and CSI are dropping province-wide. The report highlights one of the main reasons CSI is falling is because of a decrease in police-reported incidents of trafficking, and production or distribution of cocaine.
Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill
Saskatoon Police chief Clive Weighill said the increase did not surprise him and he attributes the numbers to an increasingly disenfranchised and vulnerable population.
“We have huge marginalized population that’s living in poverty and poor houses, racism and vulnerability,” Weighill said. “When you have people that are living in an area with not a lot of hope, don’t feel part of mainstream society, it’s almost a textbook case for a criminologist of what drives people to become disconnected.”
Last year Saskatoon had seven homicides. This year, the city has already had five, two of which are still unsolved. Property crime is up 14 per cent this year due to more car thefts and stolen possessions from cars.
Saskatoon, along with all of Canada, has seen a general reduction in crime year-over-year, however Weighill said Saskatoon is not decreasing at the same rate as other urban areas. Crime has decreased 39 per cent over the last decade, but as Saskatoon continues to grow, Weighill said alcohol, drugs and gangs have become increasingly more linked to urban crime. He said they are also changing the way police fight the issue.
“I think we have to do a lot more work with social services, mental health, health, and education and try and reduce or eliminate some of the social ills that we have,” Weighill said.
Despite Regina still among the highest for crime and its severity, Police Chief Troy Hagen is focusing on the numbers long term, calling them remarkable.
“Over an 11 year period of time, Regina CMA has been leading the country and has led the country in terms of an overall reduction of crime,” he explained.
Crime has been roughly cut in half in the city over the last decade.
“Year-over-year, crime has dropped to the lowest point in 24 years,” stated Mayor Michael Fougere.
He maintains the city is safe and residents understand that. The chief credits things like improved technology, additional officers and greater efficiency in targeting at-risk youth as reasons for the long-term drop. However, Hagen clarifies there’s still a lot of work that has to be done to reduce consistent issues like break and enters, vehicle theft and property crimes.
He also acknowledged that there is a gang concern in the province, not a problem but instead a concern he was quick to point out.
“We’re not raising the victory flag,” Hagen went on to say. “We know we still have a tremendous amount of work in front of us, but what’s really important is that we have tremendous momentum.”
He said if we continue that momentum we’ll drop from the top of the list and fall closer in line with the Canadian average for crime rate.
With files from NewsTalk’s Kevin Martel and Lasia Kretzel.