Red Deer is the second worst city for crime in Canada, say national statistics.
Only Grande Prairie ranked worst using a Crime Severity Index, which measures the volume and severity of crime reported.
Alarmingly, Red Deer is also the most likely place in Canada to have your home broken into, according to Statistics Canada numbers. A Red Deer homeowner has a one-in-94 chance of a break-in, more than double the national average of one-in-223.
After Grande Prairie, Red Deer is the second worst city for vehicle thefts. Red Deer ranks fifth among communities where people are most likely to be robbed.
Red Deer RCMP Insp. Heidi Wild doesn’t dispute the statistics. But they don’t tell the whole story, she adds.
“We don’t like the fact that there is a lot of crime either. Nobody likes that and nobody wants to be number one.
“But having said that, Red Deer is still, I think, a very safe community to live in.”
Wild has almost 30 years of policing experience in Penticton, Prince George and Dawson Creek.
Red Deer’s crime picture is not dramatically different than anywhere else she has worked.
“I feel quite comfortable living here. I have no issues being here.
“The citizens are great here. We get so many tips, videos and phone calls and information from the public that is really helpful,” said Wild, who came to Red Deer two years ago — a posting she requested.
To come up with its rankings, Statistics Canada uses a complicated weighting formula for Criminal Code offences. The more serious the average prison sentence for a crime, the higher the weight for that offence.
Overall, Alberta saw the biggest percentage increase in the index compared with the rest of the country.
Deputy mayor Dianne Wyntjes said statistics always reflect a certain “point in time” and she noted other Alberta cities fared poorly in the results, a reflection that many Western communities are facing similar challenges right now.
Wyntjes said the city takes the crime issue very seriously and council will be considering what resources the RCMP want when it begins reviewing next year’s operating budget in coming weeks.
A Red Deer resident since 1975, Wyntjes said she feels safe in her city but has also seen the peaks and valleys of crime that can be expected in a fast-growing community on the highway between the province’s two major cities.
But perspectives vary as evidenced by social media chatter about the latest numbers. Some are confident Red Deer is safe while others are alarmed by the statistics.
Wyntjes said residents can go a long way to reducing their chances of being victimized by locking vehicles and homes, keeping valuables out of sight and reporting suspicious activity.
“We’re all in this together.”
Wild said the story that is told by statistics depends on so many factors. “It depends on what you’re looking for and it depends on what the parameters are.”
A community’s crime rate can be influenced by social issues, the economy and other variables.
For crimes such as break-ins, a small group of very active thieves can skew numbers significantly.
“What we’re doing here is targeting prolific offenders who are responsible for much of that crime in the community,” she said.
“We are having some very positive results in that.”
All of the crimes where Red Deer ranked poorly have long been identified as priorities by local police.
Responding to those crimes is a key part of the RCMP’s Annual Policing Plan, which is developed in consultation with city administration and council and sets out priorities for the coming year.