Red Deer’s crime severity index ranked 14th worst among 326 police services across Canada last year, according to Statistics Canada.
It is nearly unchanged from the previous two years — 17th in 2020 and 15th in 2019.
Red Deer RCMP Supt. Holly Glassford cautions too much should not be read into the numbers.
“While year-over-year stats are valuable, they don’t always show the full picture,” said Glassford.
“When we take a more comprehensive look at the five-year trajectory of the crime severity index (CSI) we do see the numbers have decreased.”
The city’s crime severity index was 176.39 in 2021, compared with 171.4 in 2020. In 2019, the index was 202.16, 172.16 in 2018 and 222.81 in 2017.
Other central Alberta communities also rank poorly. Wetaskiwin’s CSI was third worst last year and Rocky Mountain House’s 19th worst. North Battleford, Sask. topped the list last year, followed by Thompson, Man.
Also relevant in identifying trends is the number of incidents, which have been trending in the right direction in recent years. Red Deer police responded to 16,128 incidents last year, compared with 16,766 in 2020, 18,890 in 2019, 15,819 in 2018 and 20,894 in 2017.
Project Pinpoint, which was launched in 2016 and uses analysis to target crime hot spots and the most prolific repeat offenders, has played an important role in reducing Criminal Code offences, she said.
Glassford said property crimes remain an ongoing challenge and are one of the biggest contributors to the city’s CSI ranking.
“That’s huge and I would like to see those numbers decrease a lot more than we are seeing this year,” she said.
Through six months this year, there have been 1,303 crimes against people, down nine per cent from the same period last year’s 1,434. There have been 5,200 property crimes, almost unchanged from the 5,196 recorded from January to June 2020.
A number of initiatives have been launched to tackle theft and other property offences, including the CAPTURE program, a voluntary camera registry that records the location of security cameras in Red Deer, and the bike registration program 529 Garage. Police are also working with local loss prevention officers and Business Watch International, which collects and stores information provided by pawn, secondhand, precious metal and scrap metal businesses.
“As a community, we’re all an important part of crime prevention,” she said.
Red Deer City Coun. Lawrence Lee said while there is a “level of frustration” that the city’s ranking remains stubbornly high, the reasons behind it are multi-faceted and complex.
And not all of them are negative.
He believes local residents’ commitment to keeping the community safe means crime reporting levels are high.
“The number of actual calls in and that are logged, that sort of data keeps levels high, which I think is a good thing,” said Lee.
The city’s relatively unchanging ranking also reflects that the local situation had not changed dramatically in previous years. Last year, the economy began emerging from a prolonged province-wide slump but has yet to fully rebound.
The ongoing search for a permanent shelter with wrap-around services to provide counselling and addiction help remains unresolved. That contributes to the kind of social disorder that leads to crime and drives up statistics that StatsCan uses to compile its crime severity index.
Lee said he wants to see the province get more involved in helping ensure the city has the support necessary to tackle social disorder and its numerous causes.
Lee sees the index as more of an acknowledgement of the issues the city continues to face than as a sign the community is unsafe.
“For me, it is just an indicator. I don’t feel it’s unsafe at all in our city and I’ve lived here all my life,” he said.
The downtown, where concerted efforts have been made by the city and RCMP to make people feel safer, has been improving, he said.