It’s certainly not the number one ranking any community wants.
Crime stats compiled from 2019 were published Thursday (Oct. 29) with Lethbridge reporting the highest Crime Severity Index (CSI) out of 35 metropolitan areas across the country, with a population of at least 100,000.
The Crime Severity Index measures both the volume and severity of police-reported crimes.
Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman says the health and safety of the community is always the City’s number one priority and it takes reports, like the CSI, very seriously.
He says it’s not just a problem here, adding Lethbridge saw a 2 per cent increase in the crime severity index from 2018 to 2019 while nationwide it was 5 per cent.
Spearman says “this is not a new challenge for us, and we saw similar numbers in 2018 which speaks to our ongoing drug crisis and the petty crime that goes along with that.”
He also reassures residents that “Lethbridge remains a safe city in which to live and do business. The report shows that in 2019 we were just one of four municipalities that reported no homicides. Lethbridge also reported no homicides in 2018.”
Spearman says the City will continue to advocate to all levels of government for much needed social services and is encouraged by recent announcements related to permanent social housing, drug courts, and treatment beds.
Lethbridge’s index increased from 137 in 2018 to 141.8 last year. Stats Canada says that’s likely due to a rise in shoplifting and mischief offences across Alberta.
The next highest CSI was in Winnipeg at 131.7.
While Lethbridge has the highest CSI ranking as a metropolitan area, Deputy Police Chief Scott Woods says it’s also important to take a look at how the city itself is ranked.
He says the “Crime Severity Index talks about the metropolitan area which includes other areas outside of the City of Lethbridge. When you look at the City of Lethbridge, we’re ranked 26th now overall, which from 15th last year, I would suggest we’re trending in the right direction.”
Woods also notes the data used in this report is almost a year old, as it accounts for crime in 2019. He says adds several initiatives have been implemented in the past year that could make a positive impact on these figures.
One example is the Crime Suppression Team which Woods says has made a significant impact on the illegal drug trade and some of the other behaviours going on in Lethbridge.
And, he says “with that means more arrests, more charges, there could be a fluctuation in the Crime Severity Index going up as a result of that too … so that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not making an impact on some of the things that we’re doing.”
All measures of the national index rose for the fifth straight year with the most notable increases in child pornography, uttering threats and shoplifting.
You can look through the entire report here: 2019 Crime Severity Index