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Violent crime severity down in Terrace

But the city’s five-year average is more than double the national and provincial averages
RCMP cruiser with lights flashing. (File photo)

Violent crime severity dropped significantly in Terrace last year, as did overall crime severity and non-violent crime severity, indicate statistics compiled by Statistics Canada (StatCan).

The drop in the violent crime severity index (VCSI) was 19.6 per cent in 2021 while the overall crime severity index (CSI) was down 8.9 per cent and the non-violent crime severity index dropped by 4.3 per cent.

The indices are the result of a StatCan calculation that assigns each criminal code with different weight then multiplies the number of incidents by the weight and divides by the population of the jurisdiction. Violent crimes are given more weight than non-violent ones.

When that calculation is done, the Terrace (municipal) overall CSI in 2021 was 140.25 compared to 153.80 the year before.

This ranked the city 33rd in the province out of 181 jurisdictions for which for which police-reported data is now available. That is down eight places from 2020 when Terrace ranked 25th.

By comparison, Terrace rural, which includes Thornhill, was ranked 150th with a CSI of 50.5.

The city compared favourably with other jurisdictions in the Northwest, however, with Houston ranking 15th, New Hazelton 18th, Prince Rupert 22nd and Smithers 23rd. Only Kitimat ranked lower than Terrace at 92nd.

In terms of violent crime, the city ranked 48th and in non-violent crime 25th down from 31st and 26th respectively.

Comparing Terrace to national and provincial data for the period 2017-2021, however, the city’s five-year average CSI of 162.81 is more than double the Canadian average of 75.3 and nearly 60 per cent higher than B.C.’s 94.09 average for the same period.

The Terrace average is also very significantly higher than Lethbridge, Alta.’s 2021 CSI of 128.65. Last year, Lethbridge once again ranked as Canada’s most dangerous census metropolitan area (CMA), or city with more than 100,000 population.

In past comments on crime statistics, smaller municipalities have always been skeptical of the meaningfulness of the crime severity indices noting that a single murder, for example, or a particularly troublesome hospital patient, can skew the numbers dramatically for smaller communities and in any given year might not necessarily reflect the overall safety of the community.

Elected officials in smaller communities also say that because they are service centres for surrounding rural areas, they attract more people and, as a result, more crime than otherwise might be the case.

StatsCan acknowledges that taken discreetly, the numbers can be misleading, but nevertheless maintains they are useful in tracking crime trends and the relative safety of communities.

“The Crime Severity Index is also a tool for measuring the increase or decrease in the severity of crime over time in any given jurisdiction, such as provinces and territories, and for comparing the seriousness of crime among jurisdictions,” an article on the StatCan website states.

“Over time, police-reported crime rates have generally been higher in the west and north than in eastern and central regions of the country. This is also true for crime severity, as measured by the new Crime Severity Index.”

Fort St. James (rural) ranked number one among municipalities in the province in 2021 with a CSI of 293.52, up 3.2 per cent from the year before.

Fort St. James also took top spot for NVCSI at 281.49.

Hope (rural) claimed the highest VCSI in the province at 433.36.

The Top 10 among all reporting police jurisdictions in B.C. were: Fort St. James (rural), Hope (rural), Quesnel, Prince George, Agassiz (rural), Williams Lake, Merritt, Port Hardy (rural), Penticton and Northern Rockies (rural).

B.C.’s big cities, Kelowna, Vancouver, Abbotsford-Mission and Victoria ranked second, 10th, 13th and 18th respectively among Canada’s 37 CMAs.

The Top 5 CMAs in the country were: Lethbridge; Kelowna; Winnipeg, Man.; Moncton, N.B.; and Regina, Sask.

StatCan started tracking the crime severity indices as a better reflection of the relative safety of communities in 1998.

Nearly 40 per cent of police-reported crimes in Canada are theft under $5,000 and mischief. The calculation of the severity indices gives lesser weight to these types of crimes and more to violent and serious crimes.

Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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