Living dangerously in Red Deer

Maclean’s magazine says that Red Deer is the fourth most dangerous city in Canada.

‘Maclean’s’ magazine says that Red Deer is the fourth most dangerous city in Canada.

But a Red Deer criminologist said that’s misleading and he isn’t scared to walk in the city at night.

Using 2010 incarceration rates and crime rates for six crimes — homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, vehicle theft, robbery, and breaking and entering — Red Deer was 71.3 per cent above the national crime average, according to Maclean’s report on Canada’s Most Dangerous Cities.

Prince George is the worst, followed by Victoria and Saskatoon. Edmonton is ranked 19th and Calgary is 50th out of the nation’s 100 largest populations.

Crime rates were based on per 100,000 people.

Red Deer College criminologist Bill Stuebing said crime statistics are complicated to understand and can make people think the worst.

“You’ve got to stop and think now what exactly do these numbers mean and where do they come from rather than just taking them at face value. At face value, they say Red Deer is Canada’s fourth most dangerous city. Do I feel personally threatened? Do I feel I’ll be a victim of crime tomorrow? No,” said Stuebing on Thursday.

In October 2010, Maclean’s reported that Red Deer was Canada’s 11th most dangerous city. In 2008, Red Deer was ranked as 23rd.

Red Deer’s dramatic ascension is largely attributed to a high rate of non-violent crime.

Stuebing said varying levels of police enforcement and sentencing practices across Canada also impact statistics.

He said Red Deer historically has more police enforcement, which increases a city’s reported crime rate.

‘Maclean’s’ also used Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index, which is based on the portion of offenders who are sentenced to jail and length of incarceration. If a city processes more crime, it would likely see more jail convictions, he said.

“What the severity index represents is the fact that Red Deer is particularly tough on crime.”

Stuebing said the amount of serious crime in Red Deer is small compared to other communities.

“We had no homicides (in 2010). Our aggravated assault rate was 60 per cent above the national average, but that was a total of 15 assaults.”

Stuebing said Red Deer had 886 reported break and enters, 64 per cent above the national average. There were 406 auto thefts, 60 per cent above the national average; 74 sexual assaults were reported, 22 per cent above average.

The city had 82 reported robberies, 1.5 per cent below average.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said Canadians are getting the wrong idea about Red Deer from the ‘Maclean’s’ report.

“I think to paint Red Deer as a lawless, frontier community would not be accurate,” Flewwelling said.

In surveys, residents say city streets are safe.

“When you ask people, do they feel safe walking on the street? They say yes. Do you feel safe walking in your neighbourhood at night? They say yes.”

He said Red Deer has had violent incidents and because it is located on the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, that leads to some problems with organized crime and the drug trade. But the city has many positives.

“I think our reputation as a community with a very high quality of life, and delightful place in which to live, and one of the choice small cities in Canada, would far outweigh the statistics about crime.”

Red Deer City RCMP plan to review ‘Maclean’s’ report with the city before making a statement.

For the full ‘Maclean’s report’, visit http://www2.macleans.ca/crime-chart/

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com