EDMONTON — Police in Alberta’s capital say 2022 saw the highest number of violent crimes ever reported in a single year.
Sean Tout, the force’s executive director of information management and analytics, said the trend of violence has continued so far this year. Violent crimes in Edmonton during the first quarter of 2023 were up by about six per cent compared to the same period in 2022.
“The volume of violent crime, the severity of violent crime and violence perpetrated against these victims continues to increase in the city of Edmonton at alarming rates,” Tout told a news conference Friday.
Last year, at least 15,040 violent crimes were reported in Edmonton — an increase of 16.5 per cent from 2021, the data suggests. Tout said assaults, intimidation and robbery saw the biggest jump between 2021 and 2022.
Data indicates that at least two out of every 10 violent crimes took place in downtown Edmonton.
Tout said the severity of violence against victims “is equally concerning.” In 2022, there was a 25 per cent hike in violence that involved a firearm.
Between January and March of this year, firearm-related crimes jumped 75 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Tout said between 2013 and last year, at least 70 per cent of victims who were attacked in transit centres did not know their offenders. This was higher than the city’s average, where 36 per cent of victims didn’t know the attackers during the same period.
He said the attacks speak to a significant need for resources to address violent crime in transit centres.
The service also released data on violent crimes before and after the 2019 passage of Bill C-75 — federal legislation that gave courts and police more power to ease bail provisions.
The crime analysis data sets were released on the same day Canada’s premiers and police chiefs met about reforming the justice system.
Edmonton police data shows that 2,880 people were arrested and released in 2017. Of those, 1,784 people, or 60 per cent, were involved in violent crimes again, including three homicides between 2017 and 2019.
After Bill C-75 was passed, at least 3,647 people were arrested and released in 2020 in Edmonton.
Of those, 2,482 people, or 68 per cent, were engaged in violent crimes again, with 26 homicides between 2020 and January 2023.
“We know we have a small number of individuals disproportionately responsible for a large number of the volume of occurrences that equates to a large resource draw in identifying these individuals and holding them to account,” said Tout.
He said the data speaks to “why there’s a necessary requirement for integration of our information systems” for police, courts and correctional services.
Temitope Oriola, a criminology professor at the University of Alberta, said the Edmonton police data “(doesn’t) say anything new in the broader picture” and that it’s a “slice of a much more complicated picture.”
“They’re looking at the tail end of that spectrum, rather than the root cause.”
Oriola said police services across Canada are portraying the 2019 legislation as “responsible for the spike in violent crime incidents across Canada. That’s inaccurate, to put it mildly.”
He said the approach also presupposes that keeping suspects behind bars for much longer would reduce violent crime.
“I just don’t think that is accurate,” he said.
“Do we want to spend money on the root causes of the problems that we’re observing — things like mental health problems, homelessness and drug addiction — or focus on spending much of that money on the criminal justice system?”