Those concerned about Red Deer’s recent spike in crime may be right, numbers show.
Crime severity index in Red Deer was at its second highest level in 2017 – that’s according to data from Statistics Canada – going as far back as 1998.
The crime severity index was highest in the city at 229.86 in 2003 – compared to figures since 1998. The second highest CSI was in 2017, when it jumped up to 221.31 – about 8.55 points below the highest number in 2003.
Statistics Canada show crime has indeed been on the rise in Red Deer, increasing slowly, since 2014, in the city’s most recent history.
In 2018, however, the crime severity index decreased significantly, a drop of about 23.39 points, at 169.76.
In 2016, crime severity was at 210.66. It was 182.60 and 168.78 in 2015 and 2014 respectively.
Sara Dunn, the uniform crime reporting survey manager with Statistics Canada, points out, the CSI has been on an increase “basically since 2008.”
The top three CSI numbers were in years: 2003, followed by 2017, and 2016, she said.
“It’s interesting point, that yes it was at its highest in 2003, but it was almost at the same level in 2017, and then it has a dramatic drop in 2018.”
Crime rate, which takes population into account, paints a slightly different picture: 2017 had the highest number of actual criminal incidents.
“(The year) 2003 has the highest rate, since ever, since 1998, however if you look at actual number of incidents, it’s not the highest number,” Dunn explained, pointing to the city’s population.
The population in 2003 was roughly 72,000 people, and in 2017, it was roughly, 104,000 people.
“You can look at it from two different angles: the number of incidents was highest in 2017, but rate was highest in 2003, and population is what makes the difference there (rate is counted based on 100,000 people),” Dunn said.
Red Deer RCMP Supt. Gerald Grobmeier pointed to population increase in the city in the last little while, citing it a young city, the rise in opioids and methamphetamine in the province and the slow economy in Alberta to the recent rise in crime.
“You add that to a slower economy and more people out of work, and its kind of a perfect storm for your crime to eventually start going up and we’ve all seen that in 2017,” Grobmeier said.
The crime severity index number for 2019, will be similar to the 2018 number, the Supt. said.
“We’ll be fairly close. In the first quarter of 2019 we did see a spike in crime, but for the last nine months of the year, it was either at or below 2018 levels,” he said.
Whether crime will come back down in the next couple years, Grobmeier said there are certain variables at play, that “we don’t have any control over” such as the economy and unemployment.
The police however continue to do the job in front of them.
Grobmeier said, by arresting someone and putting them in jail, doesn’t solve people’s issues of mental health, addiction and homelessness.
“Many of our calls are not criminal or police related, but there’s just no one else to go, so (for instance) we have say a person who is homeless on the street, and is having an episode, not necessarily violent, but there’s nobody else to call so the RCMP go to it,” he said
“Every time we do that, and we then go to the hospital, we lose two police officers for hours, we’re looking towards going to a model, whereby that’s taken away from the police and it goes to the appropriate departments to deal with, so these people can get help, plus it frees up our resources to do the actual police work,” he explained.
Red Deer historian Michael Dawe said the city’s lowest crime rate was in 1917, just after the start of Prohibition. when Red Deer only had two criminal cases in the whole year. There was a subsequent spike, however, due to liquor infractions – illegal sales and consumption of alcohol.
Another year that jumps out for Dawe is 1935, when Red Deer experienced a violent and high crime summer, “probably due to the prolonged economic Depression.”
Statistics Canada numbers in this story are based on data going as far back as 1998.