Crime severity numbers released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday painted Prince Albert in an ugly light.
The city sits fifth in Canada among communities of more than 10,000 people.
And while the numbers don’t break out who the victims of the crimes were, they aren’t people being dragged out of their suburban bi-levels or beaten during their walk to work.
Crime is often committed because of opportunity, and if you limit your exposure to dodgy circumstances, you’ll probably be all right in Prince Albert. Of course that won’t help the people who don’t have the means or ability to escape the more lawless elements of our society.
With the community’s continuing struggles with alcohol, it’s hardly a shock. The weekly number of residents who are arrested for liquor-related offences draw a very direct line to the cause of the problem. And certainly poverty, a lack of opportunity and a lack of motivation all weigh in to some extent.
But a bad news story for Prince Albert was a good news story for the country.
It is easy to forget sometimes that Canadians are living in a country with increasingly less crime. With criminal cases often treated in a sensational manner and talking heads filling the airwaves with breathless dissections of crime, it was refreshing to see the national crime stats.
Not only is there less crime in Canada, the severity of the crime is also dropping.
The Crime Severity Index showed a nine per cent decrease in 2013 over 2012, the 10th time in a row the number has dropped. That was nearly matched by an overall drop in the crime rate of eight per cent.
That’s precious little comfort if you’ve recently had your car stolen or were punched in the nose, but it at least shows that we’re headed in the right direction as a nation.
Still, there were more than 1.8 million Criminal Code offences in 2013, a number that remains far too high. Of that number, 384,000 were violent incidents and 505 were homicides.
Even that last number can be a bit deceiving, because the homicide rate of 1.44 victims per 100,000 is at its lowest since 1966. It nearly hit four homicides per 100,000 twice between 1980 and 1995 so the number is down a great deal.
And it’s also helpful to note that the American homicide rate in 2012 was 4.67 per 100,000. We also trailed Norway, Finland and Belgium in finishing fifth among a selected group of 17 similar countries. In Japan, the homicide rate is 0.3 homicides per 100,000, one-sixth of the tally in Canada.
But if you widen the search, El Salvador’s murder rate was 139.1 per cent per 100,000 as recently as 1995.
Canada is a long way from perfect and certainly has a long way to go but the numbers are encouraging.
In Prince Albert, we know what the problem is; putting a cork in it will be a lot more difficult.
Prince Albert Daily Herald