Maclean’s magazine released its 2020 list of Canada’s most dangerous places on Tuesday, and Lethbridge continued its trend of climbing the crime rankings.
The city cracked the national list at 15th overall in the magazine’s “All Crime” category, moving up from 19th place on last year’s list.
Just four communities in Alberta were deemed more dangerous than Lethbridge on the all crimes rankings, including Wetaskiwin (4), Grande Prairie (9), Red Deer (10) and Lloydminster (12).
North Battleford, Sask., topped the list of overall crime.
The Maclean’s report uses Statistics Canada data from the last year, comparing 237 urban centres across the country with populations of 10,000 or more.
Rankings are compiled using the crime severity index (CSI), which measures both the volume and severity of crimes in a municipality as compared to the Canadian average.
The magazine reported that the national index has risen steadily over the past four years, and sits at 75.01 for 2020. Lethbridge had a CSI of 159.
According to Maclean’s, the most recent national increase comes predominantly from a jump in fraud, level-one sexual assault and theft.
Lethbridge sits fifth in the nation in terms of its fraud rate (calculated by incidents per 100,000 population), with the city’s 1,194.42 over the last year more than three times the national average of 349.2.
Acting Sgt. Paolo Magliocco of the Lethbridge Police Service’s economic crimes unit believes the increase in fraud — seen in Lethbridge as well as across the country — is tied to other issues.
“I would suggest there is a steady rise in financial crime locally, but having said that, there is also a rise nationally,” Magliocco said. “I’m not sure there’s a specific reason why Lethbridge fraud numbers are terribly higher than the national, other than the fact that we have an increase in drug crime locally.
“Drug crime and financial crime tend to be married.”
Magliocco said the most common reports of fraud to LPS are related to identity fraud, credit card fraud and various other scams.
“What we find is, if you need to make money quickly, typically those in sort of down-and-out situations will turn to fraud, and they will turn to property crime,” he said.
Property crime — specifically break and enters — were also reported by Maclean’s to be far above the Canadian average in Lethbridge.
The breaking and entering rate in Lethbridge was 883.19, more than double the national number of 431.24.
Lethbridge’s rate for trafficking and producing drugs other than cannabis and cocaine — including heroin, ecstasy, and methamphetamines — was also nearly six times the average.
“I think the issue we have locally is just the rate at which people are using,” Magliocco said. “So the more people that use, the more people that are potentially down-and-out, and crime will naturally increase.
“Meth has traditionally been a problem locally. It may have taken a back seat during the opioid crisis specifically, but it has always existed here. And that remains a large issue in our community because the rates of meth usage drive crime specifically.”
Maclean’s reported a two per cent increase in crime reported across the country in the last year, and also split up rankings based on an index of violent crime.
The Canada average violent crime severity index (VCSI) was 82.44 on the 2020 list — with Lethbridge at 116, the city landed in 34th spot nationally, a jump from 39th last year.
Thompson, Man., topped the violent crime list with a VCSI of 366.
The report also compared the five-year change in CSI amongst the 237 communities that were ranked.
Lethbridge sat third in 2019 based on the five-year increase in crime, but on the 2020 list, the city fell two spots to fifth, based on a five-year CSI jump from 79.58 to 159.
“I think most of the community would agree that we’re facing some issues locally,” Magliocco said. “But there are many things in place currently, with both the city and the police service working to try to combat some of those numbers, and I think as time passes, we’ll see those numbers hopefully decrease as some of our initiatives come into play.”