April 9, 2017 10:00 pm
Updated: April 11, 2017 4:34 am

Canadian cities with the heaviest police presences

Mon, Apr 10: A new report on policing across Canada reveals some surprising findings about the number of officers in cities like Surrey and Victoria. John Hua explains the math.


EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story said that Canada’s most heavily-policed city is Victoria, B.C. This was stated in a StatsCan report, but Victoria’s police department was amalgamated with Esquimalt and counts the police presence of both areas together. StatsCan table 254-0004 shows that the agency stopped counting police presence in Esquimalt alone in 2004, a year in which Victoria’s population jumped dramatically. The story has been updated to show that Montreal has the strongest police presence with 229 officers per 100,000 population.

Go to Montreal, and you’ll find major tourists spots, historical landmarks, and Canada’s strongest police presence in cities with populations of over 100,000 people.

That fact is contained in a Statistics Canada report that provides an update on police personnel across the country.

Police resources in Canada, 2016” reports on police strength in jurisdictions nationwide — how much police personnel have grown in certain cities, and how much they’re costing taxpayers.

The report showed that, at 229.2 officers per 100,000 population, Montreal is the country’s most police-heavy city — more than other major cities like Vancouver (196.3) and Toronto (189.8).

A police cruiser is shown outside Concordia University in Montreal, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, following a bomb threat.

The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes

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There are numerous reasons why police forces can have so much personnel — and there’s not always a clear correlation with the city’s crime rate, StatsCan said.

One of the main reasons is that police departments add more officers and other staff is that they want to offer a certain level of customer service, Rick Parent, associate director of the Police Studies Centre at Simon Fraser University (SFU), told Global News.

READ MORE: Canada’s best cities for full-time jobs

Parent said that cities that have their own police departments, rather than having a force like the RCMP, are often more expensive and have “more police officers typically per capita.”

“But what you see as a side effect is the level of customer service is usually quite high, and the satisfaction rate is also quite high,” he said.

Parent said communities that rent police forces, like ones that are served by the RCMP, reside at the “opposite end of the spectrum.”

“You get a better deal, you get a better price when you rent the police,” he said.

“But it’s like renting a car. So you get a different feel when you own a car vs. when you rent a car.”

READ MORE: Overwhelming majority satisfied with Saskatoon Police Service

But police personnel aren’t growing as fast in Montreal as they are in other cities.

Coquitlam and Surrey top that list — those cities have added the most and second-most personnel over the past year.

The number of police officers in Coquitlam went up by 14.8 per cent from 2015 to 2016; in Surrey, they went up by 12.6 per cent.

Surrey RCMP at the scene of a shooting.

Shane MacKichan

The increased police presence in Surrey could reflect a drive for better customer service — though it could also have to do with the city’s crime rate, Parent said.

Surrey had Canada’s second-highest crime rate per 100,000 people in cities with populations of 100,000 in 2015, the last year for which stats are available.

At 10,826.76, it was second only to Red Deer, Alta., where the crime rate ran to 17,748.37 per 100,000 population.

The number of police officers in the city has shot up since 2014, from 117.5 per 100,000 at that time to 144.5 last year.

(Run your cursor over the coloured dots below to see how police strength has grown in municipal police services serving populations of 100,000 or more)

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Recent years have seen Surrey residents raise a “hue and cry” about police service in the city, Parent said.

“The police are running from call to call, they need more people,” he said.

Two years ago, the federal government announced that it would contribute an additional 100 RCMP officers to Surrey’s streets and $3.5 million in an effort to fight gang violence.

WATCH: Critics respond to Surrey federal funding announcement

The commitments came after a spike in violence with over two dozen shootings in Surrey and the neighbouring city of Delta between March and May of 2015.

In other words, it appears that Surrey’s crime rate and customer service were both key considerations driving an increase in officers there.

But the city still doesn’t rank among Canada’s most-policed cities.

Here are Canada’s most heavily-policed cities by 100,000 population:

9) Regina, Sask.

This Your Saskatchewan photo was taken by Dillon Komodowski‎ in Regina.

Dillon Komodowski‎/Submitted

Police presence per 100,000 population (2016): 179.2

Crime rate per 100,000 population (2015): 9,004.42

8) Edmonton, Alta.

Downtown Edmonton is silhouetted by the setting sun as storm clouds move slowly over the city on a warm Saturday, July 2, 2005 evening.

CP PHOTO - Tim Smith)

Police presence per 100,000 population (2016): 183

Crime rate per 100,000 population (2015): 8,287.98

7) Toronto, Ont.

The full moon rises over the Toronto skyline in Toronto on Nov. 14, 2016.


Police presence per 100,000 population (2016): 189.8

Crime rate per 100,000 population (2015): 3,290

6) Windsor, Ont.

A man jogs along Windsor, Ont.’s riverfront as the sun sets over the Detroit skyline, on March 29, 2004.

CP PHOTO/Windsor Star - Brent Foster

Police presence per 100,000 population (2016): 195.6

Crime rate per 100,000 population (2015): 4,790.56

5) Vancouver, B.C.

Two women on Kits Point stop to admire the Vancouver skyline; one captures the scene on her smartphone, Jan. 5, 2014.


Police presence per 100,000 population (2016): 196.3

Crime rate per 100,000 population (2015): 8,176.62

4) Winnipeg, Man.

The Winnipeg skyline is pictured Monday, May 23, 2011.

The Canadian Press Images / Francis Vachon

Police presence per 100,000 population (2016): 197.1

Crime rate per 100,000 population (2015): 6,041.25

3) Thunder Bay, Ont.

Port Arthur skyline from Marina Park in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Wikimedia Commons user Vidioman

Police presence per 100,000 population (2016): 199.5

Crime rate per 100,000 population (2015): 6,362.44

2) Halifax, N.S.

The Halifax skyline is seen from Dartmouth, N.S. on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009.

Adrian Wyld/TCPI/The Canadian Press

Police presence per 100,000 population (2016): 218.9

Crime rate per 100,000 population (2015): 5,354.32

1) Montreal, Que.

Montreal, Que.

David Sedell/Global News

Police presence per 100,000 population (2016): 229.2

Crime rate per 100,000 population (2015): 4,101.92

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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