Given that Thompson is perennially near the top of Statistics Canada’s Juristat Crime Severity Index when it is released each July, it couldn’t have been a surprise for the City of Thompson or the Thompson RCMP detachment that it was second overall and tops in violent crime severity in 2018.
They were so prepared, in fact, that they had a press release explaining factors that contribute to the high Crime Severity Index score ready by the morning of July 23, the day after the index was released. That was not very difficult however, since troublemaking outsiders, a higher population than census counts indicate and proactive enforcement of drug and impaired driving laws were once again identified as the driving forces, along with the effects of residential schools and colonialism.
Much like North Battleford, Saskatchewan and Quesnel, B.C., two of the other top five communities of overall Crime Severity Index (Wetaskiwin, Alberta and Portage La Prairie are the others in the top five), Thompson is a northern community with a heavily resource-based economy and a high Indigenous population. The factors that contribute to high crime severity are the same in many of these communities, and others near the top of the list, which includes 317 communities from across Canada with populations of 10,000 or more people.
Unfortunately, Thompson does stick out, along with North Battleford, for a couple of reasons. For one, they were once again the only communities in Canada with overall Crime Severity Index Scores higher than 300, and both were moving in the wrong direction, up instead of down, from last year. Even worse for Thompson, it was once again the only Canadian community with a violent Crime Severity Index score of more than 500, and the gap between it and the second-place community, North Battleford, increased from 2017, since Thompson’s violent CSI score went up more than 60 points, or 10 per cent, from last year, to 569.85, while North Battleford’s dropped more than 40 points, to 362.11, meaning Thompson was more than 200 points higher in 2018, compared to just a 100-point difference the year before.
Granted, this higher score can be at least partially the result of police doing a better job at tracking suspects and laying charges against them, but more charges being laid probably means that more crime is taking place, unless the rate at which given types of crimes are solved (in the sense of charges being laid) has dramatically increased.
Put simply, the city seems to be going in the wrong direction and, since it is unlikely that the population of Thompson is going to start rising substantially any time soon, reducing the Crime Severity Index score and ranking will require actual reductions in the number of crimes being committed, since simply staying the same will result in scores getting higher if the city’s population drops. In recent years, the Thompson RCMP detachment has received more calls per service in a year than there are residents of Thompson, or upwards of 40 calls for service per day, every day of the year, on average.
Do these statistics mean that everybody in Thompson is going to be a victim of crime in a given year? No. But they do mean that RCMP officers stationed here are extremely busy and, depending upon the seriousness of your call, you may be put on hold waiting for an available operator when call volumes across the province are high, and that it may take a long time for police to respond, which can often reduce the likelihood of the person or people responsible being caught.
Will Thompson ever not being the top 10 in at least one of the three categories included in the Crime Severity Index (overall, violent and non-violent)? Probably not. As former Thompson detachment commander Insp. Kevin Lewis once said, Thompson is Northern Manitoba’s Las Vegas, and people are drawn here either by choice or by necessity, whether that be for shopping or medical treatment. The province provided the city with $300,000 to develop a public safety strategy earlier this year. What kind of value we get for that money might be revealed by the 2019 Crime Severity Index score, or perhaps the one in 2020. If they don’t provide much help in the form of reducing crime overall, at least the province is also renovating the Thompson court office to help make getting people who are charged with crimes through the legal system faster.