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Editorial: 2022 homicide spike isn’t what Thompson needed

Unusually high number of five homicide, the same number as in the last four years combined, is tragic for the people involved and doesn't help the city's reputation.
Having five homicides in one year after four straight years with two or less is bad news all around.

It may not please some people to hear it, but five homicides, four of which were classified by police as murders, meaning that the people who did the killing either realized or just didn’t care that their actions were likely tp result in someone’s death, in a city the size of Thompson, is a lot, and by most conceivable measures, too many.

Though some categories of crime were down over the first11 months of 2022 compared to the previous year, homicides were up. Way up. There were none in 2021, one the year before and two in each of the years before that. The totals were slightly higher in the two years before that which had three each in total, but it has been at least 10 yers since there were more than three homicides in Thompson na single year. When the last time there were five was, or if it’s ever happened before, are things we haven’t been able to determine yet, but really it doesn’t matter. Whether it’s an all-time record or just matches a previous one-year high — hell, even if there was a year with more Thompson homicides — it’s still bad news.

According to the 2021 census, Thompson had a population of a few dozen more than 13,000 people. Expressed in the way that crime rates often are, by their incidence per 100,000 people, Thompson’s homicide rate last year was approaching 40 per 100,000 people, putting it on par with some developing nations in Central America in terms of how many citizens get killed.

Granted, of course, the fact that Thompson has a small population skews the per 100,000 stats somewhat. A relatively small raw number increase, from three to five, for example, drives the rate way up. What could be a one-time anomaly can appear to be the start of a rising trend. 

Apart from the fact that five people lost their lives, which of course is the biggest and most significant effect of these crimes, the high number of homicides last year will also contribute to Thompson’s reputation as a violent place. Homicides, particularly murders, are weighted heavily on the annual Crime Severity Index that Thompson always appears at or near the top of, because they are some of the most serious crimes a person can commit and carry the stiffest punishments. When those rankings are released, they will get publicized by the media, because that’s part of the media’s job — simply reporting facts.

Does bringing attention to things that don’t paint Thompson in a positive light make it easier to encourage people to move here or encourage those already here to stay? Probably not. But fundamentally, the obstacle standing int he way of those things happening is not the publicity but the reality that it brings to light. Sure, rising crime after a couple of decades of dropping rates is not exclusive to Thompson, and, as those of us who live here know, for most Thompson residents the risk of becoming a victim of violence is not high. There are many aspects to Thompson and its reputation as a place with high rates of violence is a one-sided portrait that doesn’t reflect the city’s complete character. But truly making the city a better place to live is about actually making it better, not about hushing up its very real and often all-too-visible problems. Hopefully, the rise in the number of homicides in the city last year was just a statistical fluke. But even if it was, there are still crime issues that the city and its residents need to grapple and come to terms with if they want to see improvement.

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