Driven by property crime, disturbances of the peace and mischief, the crime rate in Terrace was higher than any other B.C. community of similar size last year, according to new data released by Statistics Canada.
Overall, while Terrace’s crime rate decreased 2.13 per cent to the equivalent of 23,173 crimes for every 100,000 people in the 2017 calendar year, it still remains high in comparision to other locations.
The average for all other B.C. towns with more than 10,000 people is 7,417 incidents per 100,000. A national average of 5,334 places Terrace 79th out of 1,109 comparable communities Canada-wide.
In terms of actual numbers, the total criminal code violations in Terrace for 2017 was 2,808 reported incidents. There were 277 unfounded cases, meaning police determined the reported offence did not occur.
At press time city staff had not yet reviewed the latest crime statistics. Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc was out of town and unreachable for comment. Speaking on behalf of the city, chief administrative officer Heather Avison said the data will be reviewed with the RCMP when the new detachment commander is in place.
Historically the RCMP have said crime rates based on 100,000 persons skews the statistics unfavorably for small communities like Terrace. Avison echoed police concerns with rate calculations, saying despite ongoing efforts to address crime trends, the city is still a safe place to live.
“A lot of what we’re seeing is uncomfortable, and it may not be what you want to see when you’re welcoming people into the community, but I wouldn’t say Terrace is unsafe.”
The city announced last week it will be requesting B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety to increase the number of authorized RCMP members to 28 from the current 25. The intent is to strengthen the RCMP’s Crime Reduction Unit in the downtown area.
Racking up 1,048 violations, Disturbing the Peace ranked as the number-one offence in 2017, similar to years prior. The rate of 9,281 occurrences per 100,000 persons eclipsed the B.C. average of 899.
Property crime followed with 806 incidents, but showing a 17 per cent decline overall and accounting for some of the most significant gains in crime reduction last year: reported theft under $5,000 fell 33 per cent to 274 instances; theft under $5,000 from vehicles dropped 54 per cent to 59 instances; and shoplifting was down 26 per cent with 99 known violations.
When compared to the B.C. average rate of property crimes, the gap closed slightly with 6,946 locally and 4,814 provincially.
Mischief came in third for Terrace, accounting for 407 violations. It was down 6.33 per cent but still significantly higher than the provincial average rate of 912 compared to 3,745 locally.
The city recently announced plans to increase the number of police officers from 25 to 28 to bolster the detachment’s Crime Reduction Unit. Last year the bulk of calls for disturbance and public intoxication came from the downtown area, where business owners have become increasingly vocal over customer accessibility and public safety.
“The city has definitely been concerned about some of the issues we’ve been experiencing in the downtown area in particular,” Avison said. “We have received a lot of public complaints about behaviour we are seeing in the downtown, and efforts are being made to work on that. But it’s a very big issue, around mental health and addictions that contribute to that. It’s a tough one to grapple from a municipal standpoint, but we’re certainly aware and are taking what responsibility we can for it.”
In more serious matters, violent crime shot up to 26 per cent to 381 instances with rates of 3,283 per 100,000 people compared to the 1,104 provincial average. The spike can be attributed mainly to assault: 212 incidents of minor assault, 33 incidents of assault with a weapon or bodily harm, five instances of aggravated assault and 15 assaults against a peace officer.
There were no reported murders or wrongful deaths in 2017, but lesser forms of violent crime helped rank Terrace 17th provincially in the Crime Severity Index (CSI). The CSI assigns a weight to crimes based on their seriousness and actual sentencing handed down by the courts.
In Terrace the CSI is 143.58, a slight drop from 146.33 in 2016. The provincial average for 2017 was 88.93.
Following a provincial trend in the past decade Terrace’s CSI has gradually been declining from its peak of 182.26 in 2008.
(Figures shown in incidents per 100,000 people)