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HomeNewsLethbridge tops crime severity index, Mayor looks to increase police budget

Lethbridge tops crime severity index, Mayor looks to increase police budget

With Lethbridge topping the Crime Severity Index (CSI) score in the country once again, Mayor Blaine Hyggen says council will discuss an increased police budget in the Fall. 

The Lethbridge census metropolitan area (CMA) has a CSI score of 128.7 for 2021, according to Stats Canada data released this month. The crime rate sat at 9,836 per 100,000 population last year, a decrease of seven per cent from 2020. Calgary’s crime rate was at 5,375 per 100,000 and it had a CSI score of 72.3 in 2021.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen attributes part of the high crime rate to a lack of police funding. 

“This I believe stems back from a reduction in our police budget here in our last budget with the previous council, of $1 million. Having a lack of resources definitely doesn’t help with the concerns that we have in our community so I want you to know this is extremely important to council,” he says. “More police on the streets and more helping out with some of these issues, definitely should help with that situation.”

Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh says the downward trend is good news, but being at the top of the list shows there is still work to be done. He adds many of the crimes driving the score up are not violent or causing a huge safety risk to residents. 

“A lot of them are property related crimes, break and enter, etcetera. And opportunity crimes for a lack of better words,” he says. “Lethbridge is a safe community and I say that not because I am the chief of police and I live here. This comes from experience of having lived in many many communities in this country.”

Mehdizadeh says drugs is one of the biggest concerns on the minds of residents. The new Stats Canada data shows Lethbridge and Kelowna, B.C., had the highest rate of opioid offences, followed by Vancouver.

“When we actually do more work on crime reduction and drug enforcement, obviously it increases the number of those charges,” Mehdizadeh says.”The good news is that we are actually solving crime. We are getting these drugs off the street.” He adds the charges are a mixture of trafficking and possession and points to record drug seizures the police conducted this year. 

Along with break and enters, the police chief says fraud is a big crime in Lethbridge. He says police work to educate the public to avoid scams and it is a challenge for the force to investigate and prosecute for these crimes, since many are operated from outside of the country.

Mehdizadeh says the hostage situation, which left one person with severe injuries last month, is not representative of crime in the city.

“That is not one of the crimes that we even anticipate or expect in this community. That’s just a one off that was really a mental health issue and many other things that we had to deal with,” he says. “Certainly citizens should not be worried that that’s a common thing.”

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