Nearly two in five British Columbians (38 per cent) believe the level of criminal activity in their community has grown over the last four years.
That’s the finding of a new Research Co. poll that suggests a growing concern about issues of public safety.
According to the poll, a majority of respondents (51 per cent) said addiction and mental health issues were the biggest driver behind the current crime situation.
Four in 10 people believed gangs were the biggest factor, while 36 per cent said an inadequate court system was to blame, and 33 per cent pegged crime on a lack of values or improper education of youth.
Just 19 per cent pinned the problem on a lack of resources for police.
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Despite the large number of respondents concerned about growing crime rates, just 17 per cent said they had been the victim of a crime that needed police.
Province-wide, crime statistics suggest a mixed picture. The latest provincial data, from 2016 shows that violent crime has dropped significantly over the last decade, with the violent crime rate well below the 10-year average.
Incidences of property crime also reflected a steep drop from the 10-year high in 2007, but the crime rate for 2016 was about par for the 10-year average.
Research Co. president Mario Canseco said that concern about growing crime was not evenly distributed across the province.
In the Lower Mainland, 34 per cent of people thought crime was increasing, while on Vancouver Island 46 per believed it was growing, as did 47 per cent of the rest of the province.
However, despite the lower number in the Lower Mainland, Canseco said recent gang violence south of the Fraser has pushed residents of one community to the limit.
“In Surrey, the number one issue continues to be public safety and there is definitely discussion of whether Surrey should have its own police force.”
According to 2017 crime statistics from the Surrey RCMP, violent crime climbed two per cent in that city over 2016, while property crime dropped by two per cent.
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Women (41 per cent) and people aged over 55 (44 per cent) were among the most likely to say crime was increasing in their community, Canseco said, adding that the issue could well resonate at the ballot box in October’s civic elections.
“Women are definitely crucial to this situation. It’s a group that tends to vote very close to home and tends to vote with some community values,” he said.
“I think they’re going to respond very well to a candidate who can appease them, especially when you look at a city like Surrey.”
The poll was conducted between June 27 and June 29, among 800 adult British Columbians. It is considered accurate within +/- 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.