On a high. Yukon crime numbers are larger than life

By Jeremy Warren News Reporter Crime in the Yukon is either spiraling out of control, or the RCMP has successfully cracked down on misdeeds.

By Jeremy Warren

News Reporter

Crime in the Yukon is either spiraling out of control, or the RCMP has successfully cracked down on misdeeds.

Yukon’s crime rate increased in 2007 while most of Canada saw a decrease.

Nationally, reported crimes are down 7.4 per cent, and violent crimes decreased 2.5 per cent.

This is the third consecutive year Canada’s crime rate has dropped.

Police reported fewer homicides, attempted murders, sexual assaults and robberies in 2007.

In the Yukon, violent crimes reported in 2007 were down 2.7 per cent from 2006 numbers.

But the overall rate increased 3.4 per cent.

The stats tell us nothing about reasons for rising and falling crime rates, said Ryn Bunicich, executive director of Crime Prevention Yukon.

So people should be careful reading too much into the numbers.

There might be fewer people reporting crimes or the police may be shifting focus to different criminal activities, said Bunicich.

“(But) the numbers are a good indicator we do have a problem,” he said.

RCMP hasn’t kept specific data on crime for several years.

Police should be providing more specific data on where and what crimes are happening in the Yukon, said Bunicich.

“Then we can focus on areas of trouble,” he said.

“Crime is a social problem and it deserves social solutions.

“It should be addressed by all of us, not just YTG. It can be as simple as knowing your neighbours’ names.”

Last year, there were 6,606 crimes reported in the territory. Of those, 906 were deemed violent.

Property crimes are down significantly, dropping 14.5 per cent.

Notable increases were reported drug offences and impaired driving charges.

A three per cent national increase in impaired driving is mainly due to a 19 per cent increase in Alberta.

Marijuana possession — half of all drug offences — pushed the drug rate up four per cent.

The highest crime rates by city are found in western metropolitan areas, like Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Saskatoon retains its title for highest crime rate in Canada, and Saskatchewan holds its provincial title despite a 3.5 per cent overall decrease.

An increase in reported crimes doesn’t indicate the Yukon is experiencing a crime wave, said RCMP Sgt. Roger Lockwood.

Break down the 2.4 increase in sexual assaults and one finds the number of incidents increased to 60 from 59 in the previous year.

“I wouldn’t say that’s a huge increase,” said Lockwood.

A number of factors could have contributed to the crime rate increase, he said.

The Yukon’s population is growing and more officers are on the streets.

There are more officers per person in the Yukon than most other places, said Lockwood.

The Yukon has the equivalent of 385 officers per 100,000 people. Nationally, the ratio is usually between 160 and 200 officers per 100,000.

“With an increase in officers, we’re doing more proactive work,” said Lockwood.

That means more patrols and more arrests on the street.

The RCMP recently increased its focus on street level crime.

The territory’s Substance Abuse Action Plan led to an increase in drug charges.

The RCMP street crime-reduction team has contributed to rising non violent crime rates, such as drug offences, because of its success, said Lesley Carberry, director of crime prevention and policing in the Justice department.

“It looks like it’s getting worse, but high rates are corollary of increased police presence,” she said.

The Statistics Canada numbers can be misleading because they fail to account for economic and demographic factors, said Carberry.

“We look at the whole picture to see where we’re going,” she said.

The data shows the territory hasn’t done enough to curb crime, said Liberal Justice critic MLA Don Inverarity.

“The increase in numbers suggests (crime) is out of control,” he said.

Cannabis possession is up almost 40 per cent and cocaine possession increased 146 per cent.

He questions the priorities of the territory, which established the Substance Abuse Action Plan and the plan has contributed to the rise in drug charges, says Carberry.

“Are the streets safer because of the (drug-related) arrests, or do people have more access?” said Inverarity.

“Police are doing their jobs, but the social side of the ledger isn’t being addressed.”

Statistics Canada data is based on police-reported crimes, not victimization surveys, which are also used to measure crime stats.

Contact Jeremy Warren at jeremyw@yukon-news.com

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