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Crime up in Yk, down in NWT
Statistics Canada report says more crime reported but less violent

by Mark Rendell
Northern News Services
Published Friday, August 1, 2014

Crime may be going down in the rest of territory, but not in Yellowknife, where at least non-violent crime is on the rise, according to Statistics Canada.

According to a report released July 23, reported crime across the territory was down by about five per cent from 2012 to 2013. In Yellowknife, the number of crimes called in to the RCMP increased by roughly the same percentage.

In both the territory and the city, the crime rate remains far above the national average of one crime reported for every 18 persons, with close to one crime reported for every two people in the NWT and one crime reported for every 2.5 people in Yellowknife.

Last year 7,965 crimes were reported to Yellowknife RCMP - up from 7,551 in 2012 - making the number of crimes reported per capita around six times the national average for cities over 100,000 people.

These crimes, however, appear to be less violent on average than in previous years.

NNSL photo/graphic

Yellowknife RCMP Const. Bryan Martell rides his ATV while on patrol along 49 Street last month. - Walter Strong/NNSL photo

The Violent Crime Severity Index, which is based upon both the number of crimes and their severity, suggests the percentage of crimes in Yellowknife considered violent decreased by around five per cent in 2013 from 2012.

And the number of people in Yellowknife actually charged remained fairly stable.

In 2013, there were 594 people charged compared with 583 in 2012 - well down from 853 in 2011. A majority of incidents reported to Yellowknife RCMP in 2013 - roughly 57 per cent - were cleared without a charge being laid. About 35 per cent are still outstanding.

According to Yellowknife RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Marc Coulombe, there could be a number of reasons reported crimes are increasing while the number of people being charged has dropped over the past several years.

"It could be that we are making a better use of diversion such as restorative justice," he said. "We've been trying to refer people to alternative measures, and with things like the Youth Criminal Justice Act there's been a push to deal with sentences informally."

"It's hard to say what would make someone report a crime this year but not last year," he said.

"Statistics are like a bikini - the interesting stuff you don't see."

Many of the statistics also appear exaggerated because of the NWT and Yellowknife's relatively small population.

For example, the 2013 murder rate in the NWT was the second highest in the country after Nunavut and roughly four times the murder rate in Ontario. There were, however, only two murders in the NWT in 2013 as compared with 166 in Ontario.

For many crimes across the territory, there was a significant drop in 2013. There were 13 per cent fewer car thefts reported in 2013, nine per cent fewer break and enters and 30 per cent fewer reports of impaired driving.

Some crimes, however, remained fairly static. The number of sexual assaults reported did not change from 2012 to 2013, remaining at around four sexual assaults reported for every 100 people.

It's the second highest rate in the country after Nunavut, and even more disturbing given that, according to the Statistics-Canada report, "Self-reported victimization data suggest that the majority (88 per cent) of sexual assaults experienced by Canadians aged 15 years and older are not brought to the attention of police."

In general, however, the picture of NWT crime painted by Statistics Canada is one of improvement. And the territory-wide drop in crime is part of a long-standing downward trend across the country. For the 10th year in a row, there was a nationwide drop in the crime severity index and the crimes per capita reported to police was the lowest since 1969.

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