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Thompson remains Canada's most violent crime city, new Statistics Canada rankings show

Mayor Tim Johnston: 'The bad news story for me is the headline that will do more damage to Thompson in terms of creating a false impression of our community for readers and potential residents or investors'
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Thompson Citizen Photo Composite by Amy Hazelwood

Thompson: Most Violent City for Crime in Canada
Mayor Tim Johnston left: Since 2008 there has only been one year – 2009 – when Thompson was not Canada's most violent crime city. That year Thompson was the second most violent city for crime in Canada.

Thompson, again for the second year in a row, is Canada's most violent crime city, according to annual federal statistics.

Since 2008 there has only been one year – 2009 – when Thompson was not Canada's most violent crime city. That year Thompson was the second most violent city for crime in Canada.

Statistics Canada released its annual Juristat Crime Severity Index values for 239 police services policing communities over 10,000 population for 2011 on July 24 and Thompson for the second year in a row topped the Violent Crime Severity Index and finished second in both the Overall Crime Severity Index column and Non-Violent Crime Severity Index column.

The rankings and the datasets that went into them were almost a mirror image of 2010 for Thompson.

The same annual survey of police-reported crime, however, shows a very different picture nationally and in many other communities once you get outside of Thompson and some other perennial violent hotspots. The national crime rate is continuing its 21-year decline and has now dropped to levels not seen since 1972, the survey indexes show.

The police-reported crime rate, which measures the total volume of crime per 100,000 population, continued to decline in 2011, down six per cent from 2010. Overall, this marked the eighth consecutive decrease in Canada's crime rate, says Shannon Brennan, an analyst for the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Since peaking in 1991, the national crime rate has generally been decreasing, and is now at its lowest point since 1972.

In the West, particularly in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, particularly in places like North Battleford and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and Thompson here in Manitoba, it's a completely different story and the three cities pretty much top the violent and overall crime rankings year in and year out, with some very minor shuffling in placement among themselves.

North Battleford had the dubious distinction of topping the overall Crime Severity Index for the third year in a row and finished ranked first on the Non-Violent Crime Severity Index column, as it did last year. In terms of violent crime, North Battleford improved marginally in dropping to third place from second last year, trading places with Prince Albert, which was third in 2010 and second in 2011.

In 2008, the City of Thompson ranked third in the overall Crime Severity Index and first in terms of violence. In 2009, we ranked third overall again but improved marginally to second in terms of violent crime.

Mayor Tim Johnston said in an e-mail July 25 requesting comment, "I have reviewed the stats for both 2011 and 2012. Our rankings remained consistent. A slight improvement was noted in the area of violent crime. I have also compiled a list of the top 10 communities and it is interesting to note that again rankings largely remained consistent."

Johnston said he has approached Deputy Mayor Dennis Fenske to work with the RCMP to do a more in-depth analysis of the stats to gain a better understanding of indicators that can provide direction for continued action.

"Further, the City of Thompson will be considering approaching the other top five communities in each category to meet and share information, identify common indicators and present possible actions to senior levels of government.

"I can advise that it is my belief that the communities do share many commonalities and that the stats point to the need to continue our focus on gangs, drugs, alcohol and domestic violence.

"I would caution people to not jump to conclusions on their personal safety, but consider the reality of the situation our community must recognize and face. The bad news story for me is the headline that will do more damage to Thompson in terms of creating a false impression of our community for readers and potential residents or investors then looking deeper at the reality of public safety and the social issues we face.

"Lastly, I can advise that in conversations with the RCMP locally, we are seeing some positives trends in reducing our crime stats in many areas.

"It is clear from the information I have seen, if people are concerned with crime and public safety, I urge them to avoid negative behavior or situations with respect to drugs, gangs, alcohol and domestic violence.

"Some great work is being done on public safety in Thompson by many committed individuals and organizations. I point to the TAG conference held last winter as case in point. We need to continue to support this type of work and talk about the positive actions not just sensationalize the same story every year."

A comprehensive review of police-reported crime statistics, the Juristat report covers crimes reported to police, rather than overall crime, which Statistics Canada reports in its General Society Survey of Crime Victimization undertaken every five years.

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