Thompson is once again at the top of the list on Statistics Canada’s Juristat Crime Severity Index (CSI) for 2019, which was released Oct. 29.
A yearly look at police-reported crime in Canada, the CSI doesn’t simply look at the number of crimes committed but assigns greater weight to crimes that are usually punished with longer prison sentences as a way to quantify the severity of crime that is occurring.
Thompson was tops in overall crime severity among communities with 10,000 or more people for 2019, with a score of 501.89, and in violent crime severity, with a score of 838.17, and second in non-violent crime severity, with a score of 379.76.
North Battleford, Sask. was second in overall crime severity with a score of 437.7. The others in the top five were Wetaskiwin, Alta. (331.5), Quesnel, B.C. (289.92) and Portage la Prairie (283.27).
North Battleford was also second in violent crime severity with a score of 554.83 and first in non-violent crime severity with a score of 394.54.
All of Thompson’s scores on the 2019 CSI were higher than in 2018. The CSI for Canada as a whole increased to 79.5 last year from 75.6 in 2018 (an increase of five per cent) but the index is nine per cent lower than it was in 2009. Violent crime in Canada also increased seven per cent last year from 2018, Statistics Canada says, though it is five per cent lower than it was a decade ago.
Mayor Colleen Smook told the Thompson Citizen she had hoped that the numbers would improve this year but is confident that they will by next year, given the many groups in involved in the city’s community safety strategy and the addition of new services like StreetReach to the city this year.
“I’m really thinking with all that we’re doing in the community right now that you’re definitely going to see a difference with us next year,” she said, adding that the fact that Thompson is a service centre for all of Northern Manitoba and has 38 RCMP officers, more than twice the number of other similar-sized cities in the province, drives up crime numbers.
“We’re actually charging people and taking them off the streets and putting them in the [criminal justice] system but then again that adds to our CSI,” she said.
Thompson RCMP detachment officer-in-charge Staff Sgt. Chris Hastie says poverty, substance abuse and mental health are the big drivers of crime in Thompson and that multi-agency efforts like the community safety strategy will help improve public safety.
"This collaborative and collective front will be necessary to address these social issues in this community and serve as a means to generate solutions to prevent crime before it occurs rather than react after it occurs,” Hastie wrote in an email. “We as the RCMP are committed to being part of the solution in pursuit of ensuring safer homes and communities for all of our citizens.”
Manitoba’s CSI increased 10 per cent from 2018 to 2019, driven by an increase in homicides, breaking and entering, fraud, shoplifting of $5,000 or less and child pornography offences.
Physical assaults are the most common type of violent crime reported to police in Canada, making up about half of all violent offences. Manitoba saw an 11 per cent increase in assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm from 2018 to 2019 and a rise of 12 per cent in aggravated assaults over the same period.
Smaller communities in Western Canada make up most of the top 10 for overall crime severity, with only four communities in the top 10 having populations of more than 20,000 people and none having a population greater than 100,000.