Free Press/Sun: Crime up in 2015: police, experts weigh in on why
Violent crime increased by six per cent across the country, while non-violent crime rose by four per cent.
Prof. Frank Cormier, who teaches criminology at the University of Manitoba, said national figures have been affected by the economic nosedive in Alberta.
Alberta’s crime-severity index increased 18 per cent in 2015, while B.C., Ontario and Saskatchewan saw smaller increases. The Statistics Canada report says Alberta has been experiencing a higher number of break-and-enters, theft of $5,000 and under and vehicle theft.
“With the dramatic change in the economy in Alberta we’ll see more crime because people lose jobs, they drink more, they have more stress,” Cormier said.
“Anything that shakes up our lives will change our behaviour.”
Cormier said some of the Winnipeg statistics are not as negative as they sound.
“All other assaults is a 650 per cent increase, but they went from two to 15 incidents and there is no definition of what gets put in that category,” he said. “A 650 per cent increase sounds horrifying, but there are thousands and thousands of other (types of ) assaults.”
As well, Cormier said 67 of what used to be prostitution offences have moved into the violent category from being non-violent.
“There can be many things that can change the numbers other than criminal behaviour,” he said.
“Winnipeggers shouldn’t be worried — that’s the short answer. We are at almost the lowest crime rate in my lifetime now. We are in very good times. We cannot expect crime to go down every year in perpetuity — that would be unrealistic. But as long as the trend continues downwards, that is good.”
Crime is up but Winnipeggers shouldn’t panic.
That’s the take of a University of Manitoba criminologist, who notes some of the latest crime statistics are actually encouraging, despite increases to property, violent and overall crime in 2015.
“One year doesn’t constitute a trend … If we wound up getting another increase in 2016 and then another in 2017, I think there’s a cause for concern,” said Rick Linden.
Linden notes Winnipeg’s overall crime rate has fallen from the fourth highest in Canada to 10th place over the past decade, according to Statistics Canada.
“There are a lot of Winnipeggers who think that we’re No. 1 in crime in Canada and actually we’ve been moving in the opposite direction,” he said.
And a Winnipeg Police Service effort to focus proactive policing within communities with the highest crime rates should help make the city safer, including a Smart Policing Initiative (SPI) program in the East District, said Linden.