For the second year in a row, the Lethbridge census metropolitan area leads the way on Statistics Canada’s crime severity index (CSI), coming in first with a CSI of 138.7 — more than 20 points higher than Winnipeg, which is second on the list.
The CSI takes into account the volume of crime in an area, with added weight for more serious offences.
“The majority of the crimes that you’re seeing that brings the CSI up in Lethbridge has to do with property crime,” Lethbridge police chief Shahin Mehdizadeh said.
Lethbridge ranks seventh in violent crime severity index with a rating of 109.3, roughly six per cent higher than in 2019, while Winnipeg leads the country at 154.8.
Violent crime includes homicide, assault, violent firearms offences, robbery and extortion.
The index also tracks crime rates and Lethbridge finds itself worst in four of five categories: total crime, violent crime, property crime and drug offences, while ranking fourth for other Criminal Code offences.
“In 2021 – because (the crime severity index) is from 2020 – we are actually starting to see a more significant decrease in crime trends in the city, which is a good news story for the city,” Mehdizadeh said.
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There were 764 drug offences in 2020 — a 24 per cent increase over the previous year — while most other crime rates remained fairly stable or even dropped from 2019.
Police say the drug crisis continues to play a big role in property crimes. Mayor Chris Spearman says services for the vulnerable population are needed to address that issue.
“We’re asking for the supports that exist in other cities, but we also have to recognize that when those supports and opportunities are provided, we have to find places in our community to house them,” Spearman said.
“We have to see what we are talking about. Is it complaints from the citizen or is it enforcement action?
“Every time we charge someone with a drug offence — be it simple drug possession or trafficking — that’s a stat that gets added up,” Mehdizadeh said.
“If we didn’t do any drug enforcement, then maybe that would bring our CSI down. But I don’t think our citizens would want that.”
There is more good news: Lethbridge’s overall CSI dropped nearly three per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, but it remains well above the 103.5 rating it received in 2016, the first year the Lethbridge CMA was included in the crime severity index.