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Halifax sees upswing in homicides

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WATCH ABOVE: Homicides in Halifax are trending upward again, according to information from Statistics Canada and the Halifax Regional Police. Global's Marieke Walsh looks at the historical context and comparisons across Canada – Nov 15, 2016

Homicides in Halifax are trending upward again, according to information from Statistics Canada and the Halifax Regional Police.

On Tuesday evening, police confirmed Terrance Patrick Izzard, 58, was the city’s latest homicide victim. His death brings the total number of homicides in Halifax this year to 11. That’s already two more than last year and six more killings than the city saw in 2014.

While it’s an upward swing, its not a record for the region. According to Statistics Canada, 18 people were killed here in 2011.

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The number of homicides in Halifax has seen two spikes in the last ten years. Global News

Former Saint Mary’s University president Owen Carrigan sat on both the provincial and municipal task forces on crime and violence in the province. He says it’s not possible to know whether the numbers are a new normal or an outlier.

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“It could be a blip, it could be a permanent upswing, but serious things like this are not necessarily going to continue at a high level,” Carrigan said. “So it will go back down but that doesn’t mean that we have eliminated the problem.”

READ MORE: Timeline of Halifax homicides in 2016

A comparison with Canada’s national homicide rate between 2006 and 2014, also doesn’t put Halifax in a favourable light.

Statistics Canada’s numbers show that the rate of homicides per 100,000 people in Canada in that period, varied between one and two homicides.

Halifax has spent time above and below the national rate. Its highest rate was in 2011 with more than four homicides per 100,000 people. The lowest rate in that period was just over one homicide per 100,000 people in 2014.

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Halifax's homicide rate (in orange) is compared to the national rate (green) and the rate in London, Ont. (blue). Global News

Some of the difference between the Canada and Halifax rates can be attributed to Halifax’s small population size – in small sample sizes, one homicide will have a much bigger impact on the overall rate. But even when you compare Halifax to a city closer in size like London, Ont., Halifax does not look favourable.

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Since 2006, London’s homicide rate has stayed below two people killed per 100,000. And in four of those years (including 2016-to-date) the city’s homicide rate has been below one person per 100,000.

Statistics Canada did not offer data later than 2014, however Halifax Regional Police and the London Police Service provided the number of homicides in 2015 and 2016-to-date. The rate for London and Halifax is based on population numbers from Statistics Canada.

Tackling the issue on all fronts

“Families are being destroyed by this,” Carrigan said. He says people from all corners of society need to act in order to permanently tackle the violence.

Carrigan said tackling the issue will require action on all fronts from governments, politicians, community leaders, individuals and organziations. He said better schooling, more programs for marginalized youth, poverty reduction and better access to education could all help to reduce crime rates.

He also said drug crime in Nova Scotia plays a role in violent crime and policymakers need to do more to tackle it.

“It’s a larger problem right now than the ability of the police to deal with it,” Carrigan said.

“It’s a whole community affair and I include politicians and police are part of that community,” he said.

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