Crime falls to 1969 lev­els

Vi­o­lent crime rate down for eighth year in a row

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA/THE PROVINCE -

Vi­o­lent crime in Canada fell for the eighth straight year — de­spite a slight in­crease in homi­cides — with Saska­toon be­com­ing the coun­try’s most crime-rid­den city, Sta­tis­tics Canada re­ported Wed­nes­day.

The down­ward trend came as the agency re­ported se­ri­ous crime in gen­eral fell to its low­est rel­a­tive level since 1969 — mark­ing 11 straight years of declines.

What ac­counts for the down­ward trend is not easily ex­plained, said crim­i­nol­o­gist An­thony Doob.

“Peo­ple have been look­ing at this for a long time but haven’t come up with com­pletely ad­e­quate an­swers,” said Doob, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Toronto.

“It may have to do with some changes in the de­mo­graphic makeup of Canada but that’s small — that cer­tainly doesn’t ac­count for it.”

Ac­cord­ing to Stat­sCan, po­lice re­ported about 369,500 vi­o­lent in­ci­dents in 2014 — 15,000 fewer than in 2013 — rep­re­sent­ing a five per cent de­crease.

While homi­cides edged up to 516 from 512 a year ear­lier, the rate re­mained un­changed rel­a­tive to Canada’s pop­u­la­tion size.

Vi­o­lent crime ac­counted for about one in five po­lice-re­ported Crim­i­nal Code of­fences last year.

Among prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries, only Yukon, Prince Ed­ward Is­land and Al­berta saw in­creases in vi­o­lent crime — mostly be­cause of more mur­ders.

Doob said vi­o­lent crime ap­pears to have been de­creas­ing across western coun­tries for ages — with a still un­ex­plained up­ward blip in the 1960s and 1970s.

What’s clear, he said, is that pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment an­ticrime leg­is­la­tion have lit­tle to do with it.

“The prime min­is­ter last fall took credit for the de­crease and I never un­der­stood if he was tak­ing credit for the de­crease that started in 1991,” Doob said. “What­ever it is that’s do­ing it is pretty broad.”

About one-third of ur­ban ar­eas saw crime rates rise last year, with Saska­toon show­ing the big­gest jump at 10 per cent. Mon­treal had the big­gest drop at nine per cent.

It was the first time that Saska­toon had the high­est rate in the coun­try — tak­ing over from long­time leader Regina — mostly due to big in­crease in break­ing and en­ter­ing, Stat­sCan said.

In con­trast, Bar­rie, Ont., recorded the low­est crime rate among ur­ban cen­tres, de­spite a small rise.

Among the prov­inces, Saskatchewan had the high­est crime rate last year while Que­bec had the low­est rate.

When it comes to mea­sur­ing the quan­tity of se­ri­ous crime rel­a­tive to Canada’s pop­u­la­tion, the rate was down three per cent from 2013, Stat­sCan said.

Se­ri­ous po­lice-re­ported crime fell to its low­est level since 1998, when the agency started track­ing what it calls its crime sever­ity in­dex.

In all, po­lice ser­vices re­ported al­most 1.8 mil­lion Crim­i­nal Code in­ci­dents in 2014 — ex­clud­ing traf­fic of­fences — with lower num­bers for most of­fences.

The agency at­trib­uted the lower num­bers mostly to fewer break-ins and rob­beries but said some of­fences, such as child pornog­ra­phy and ter­ror­ism, bucked the down­ward trend.

Sta­tis­tics Canada said the in­crease in sex crimes against chil­dren re­ported last year was pri­mar­ily the re­sult of in­ci­dents of lur­ing a child via com­puter and could be at­trib­uted to spe­cial­ized po­lice units tar­get­ing such of­fences.

“The prime min­is­ter last fall took credit for the de­crease and I never un­der­stood if he was tak­ing credit for the de­crease that started in 1991. What­ever it is that’s do­ing it is pretty broad.” Crim­i­nol­o­gist An­thony Doob

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