Another unflattering crime ranking for Prince Albert

Tyler Clarke
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Reluctant to give it too much credence, Prince Albert Police Chief Troy Cooper admits that the city’s crime severity index score doesn’t look good at face value.



Dwarfing the national Statistics Canada crime severity index score of 69.72, Prince Albert’s 2013 index score is 192 -- the fifth highest among cities with a population greater than 10,000.

“The ranking in Canada means very little to me,” Cooper concluded. “It’s whether we’re moving in the right direction, whether we’re moving in the right direction for our community, and, of course, every stat has to be interpreted.”

The crime severity index uses an algorithm that weighs crimes that have greater community impact more heavily than less significant crimes in an attempt to indicate how safe one’s community is.

Centred on population base and per-capita assessments, the algorithm doesn’t quite fly with Prince Albert, Cooper said.

“We service an area of about 150,000 people, and we know for a measured fact that we have about 34 per cent of our arrests of people not from Prince Albert.”

The City of North Battleford has the nation’s highest crime severity index score for a city of 10,000 and greater, at 323.88, followed by Thompson, Man., Yellowknife, NWT and Williams Lake, B.C.

All of these cities are considered northern, with large population catchment basins, Cooper noted.

“It’s part of the environment of where we live, and some of our challenges being a northern community we deal with addictions issues, we deal with poverty issues, and these things show up in crime stats,” he said.

Prince Albert’s 2012 ranking in Statistics Canada’s crime severity index in 2012 was No. 6, with a score of 203.

The city’s latest crime severity index score of 192 draws from 2013 statistics, during which overall city crime rates dropped by 3.3 from the previous year.

Other communities must have improved in their score at a greater rate than Prince Albert did in 2013, Cooper surmised.


Crime rates going up in Prince Albert

Crime rates in Prince Albert are on the rise so far this, jumping by 9.8 per cent as of May, compared with the same timeframe in 2013.

One of the biggest jumps is in assaults, with 246 reported so far this year -- a 34.4 per cent increase over the previous year.

Cooper said that despite the increase in recorded assaults, he doesn’t believe there have actually been more assaults in Prince Albert.

“It’s not the result of additional crime, it’s the result of additional reporting,” he explained.

Officers have set their sights at setting a more realistic benchmark to help determine which initiatives are successful in future years.

That said, Cooper recognizes that the city’s rate of assaults is nothing to be proud of, and is in many cases tied with the city’s alcohol problem.

A large swath of the assaults take place during the early morning hours between people who often know each other, he said.

A lot of the other crime rate increases recorded thus far, such as fraud (up 42.5 per cent), have more to do with police success than more offences occurring, he said.

We service an area of about 150,000 people, and we know for a measured fact that we have about 34 per cent of our arrests of people not from Prince Albert. Troy Cooper

“We could sit in the office and never lay a charge and our stats would drop, but we would obviously never do that,” he said. “You have to take crime stats with a grain of salt.”

The more reaction-based crime rates cannot be explained away.

To May 31 of this year, 27 robberies have taken place (a 17.4 per cent increase) and 97 motor vehicle thefts have been reported (a 42.5 per cent increase).

Motor vehicle thefts is a big question mark, Cooper said, noting that thefts appear to be on the rise province-wide.

“We’ve got additional resources applied to that and we’re reviewing it.”

The rime rate increase reported thus far in 2014 follows a few years of decreases year-over year.

The city’s 2011 overall crime rates dropped by 11.3 per cent, followed by 7.4 per cent in 2012 and 3.3 per cent in 2013.


Police visibility a focus

Increased police visibility was integral to Coun. Tim Scharkowski’s 2012 civic election campaign.

So far this year, city police have increased traffic enforcement between 10 and 15 per cent over the previous year, Cooper said, noting that this ties directly to Scharkowski, and the balance of the Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners’ request for added visibility.

“They’re highly visible, and just the visible presence of professional police will deter some crimes,” Cooper said.

A key focus to the added traffic enforcement has been in reducing the number of impaired drivers in the area, Cooper said.

Scharkowski said that things appear to be turning around, but that he still brings up the need for greater police visibility at every police board meeting.

“I don’t think it’s so much that I want to increase the police budget – we’re taxed and taxed and taxed,” he said. “I want to see the police budget revisited and then see if there’s an alternative or another way we can re-allocate the services we already have.”

Board chair Richard Ahenakew said that the police department’s annual budget is limiting.

“They do a lot with the budget they have,” he said. “Once you see what they do you can appreciate how hard they work in trying to keep our city safe.”

The city’s 2014 police budget was $14.3 million -- a 2.78 per cent increase over 2013, of which city coffers fund about 80 per cent.

Ahenakew said that an annual challenge is drawing more funding from other levels of government.

This year, the provincial government invested $2.09 million in the Prince Albert Police Service, funding 19 police officers out of 93 on staff.

Although they fund 20.43 per cent of city police, about 34 per cent of arrests city police make are of people who do not consider Prince Albert their home community. 

Organizations: Prince Albert, Statistics Canada, Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners

Geographic location: Canada, North Battleford, Yellowknife Williams Lake

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Recent comments

  • Andy
    July 25, 2014 - 10:54

    Its good that the province is helping paying for the policing if 34 % of their arrests and resources are being consumed by out of town people. The same applies to our small overcrowded & inadequate hospital if it is also serving 150,000 people. As a front line hospital for the north and being many first nations in the area both the Federal & Provincial government should be stepping up & assigning more money to take care of their responsibilities. Also I would like to see a tourism tax on hotels to help assign some of the cost back to visitors.

  • B. Annock
    July 25, 2014 - 09:18

    Cooper claims the "ranking in Canada means very little to me". Well maybe it should mean more to Mr. Cooper. What follows are a pile of excuses and justifications...that 34 % of criminal activity is not from citizens of Prince Albert?!! Oh 66% is though huh? Police visibility does NOTHING to curb crime. Where is your proof? Present the study on "police visibility". The challenge isnt more money...the challenge is to accept responsiblity for a failing grade....stop making excuses and accept responsibility for once!