Regina and Saskatoon have the highest crime severity indexes (CSI) in Canada.
The Queen City is ranked number one in both violent and property crime, according to 2016 figures from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) released Monday.
Saskatoon ranked second.
The index measures police-reported crime in the census metropolitan area, which is considered the city of Regina, west to Belle Plaine, east to Balgonie and north to Regina Beach and Edenwold. It includes two RCMP detachments.
The total crime severity index shows an increase of 15 per cent between 2015 and 2016.
Total crime – including murder, sexual assault, robbery, break and enter, and motor vehicle theft – went up by 11 per cent in the same period.
The crime appears to be driven by drug use and firearms, according to police. But police Chief Evan Bray said Regina’s “trusting society” is adding to the numbers.
“There’s lots of opportunities out there in the wee hours of the morning or in the quiet afternoons on a crescent somewhere where someone might be walking along and taking an opportunity,” Bray said. “I had a vehicle stolen of someone very close to me in my family in the last two weeks and the keys were in the vehicle.”
The stats were not new to Bray, who for the past 18 months has been reporting an increase in crime rates at the monthly Board of Police Commission meeting.
Strategies adopted by investigators and officers since then may be working with the downward trend already seen in the first six months of 2017.
“Seven-eighths of our CSI number is made up in property crime and we need to find a way to combat that,” Bray said. “We are doing a lot of work within the police service but there’s a lot of work the community can do as well.”
While the CSI does not paint a positive view of crime in Regina, the picture painted of a ten-year period is very different.
From 2006 to 2016, total crime severity decreased by 36 per cent while total crime dropped 25 per cent.
In a written statement, RCMP F Division echoed the sentiment from Regina police, saying there is an “emerging positive trend.”
Property crime has dropped 10 per cent through the first six months of this year from the same period in 2016.
Gang and drug activity, tracking prolific offenders and using data and information to target patrols and deploy resources are just some of the things being done by the RCMP to tackle crime.
Stats ‘no surprise’ to Saskatoon police chief
Saskatoon didn’t fare much better than Regina.
The Bridge City ranked second on the crime severity index, coming in eight points behind the provincial capital.
Saskatoon had a much smaller increase in the crime rate, however, with a 5.6 per cent rise over 2015 numbers.
“The statistics are no surprise,” Police Chief Clive Weighill said in an interview Monday, noting the increase was driven by methamphetamine addictions.
Weighill said the CSI increased due to rises in break-and-enters and armed robberies related to the drug, while violent crimes remained similar to 2015 levels.
“We’ve seen this (influx of meth) right across the prairies,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that’s found its way into our community.”
Asked how Saskatoon could drive down crime, Weighill said a coordinated strategy involving social services, education, health and the legal systems was needed.
He added Indigenous inclusion was key.
“We do have a huge marginalized population,” he said. “Unfortunately they suffer from racism and disadvantage, and sometimes that leads to criminal activity.”
“We really have to start focusing on these social indicators.”
Both Regina and Saskatoon shattered the national average of the severity index by over 40 points.
Saskatchewan also ranked worst out of 10 provinces, more than doubling the national average with a crime severity ranking of 148.
– With files from 650 CKOM’s Chris Vandenbreekel and 980 CJME’s Sarah Mills.