In the past four years, Kitimat (municipal) has seen significant increases in its Crime Severity Index (CSI), but has seen a mix of increases and decreases in its Non-Violent Crime Severity Index (NVCSI) and Violent Crime Severity Index (VCSI).
Data released by Statistics Canada (StatCan) in late October (three months later than usual) indicate the CSI for 2019 was 100.13 compared to 92.15 in 2018, an 8.66 per cent bump.
Similarly, the NVCSI was up 19.57 per cent from 79.04 to 94.51. However, the VCSI was down 10.06 per cent from 128 to 115.12, a similar yet opposite number from the increase from 115.2 to 128 in 2018.
Kitimat RCMP Sgt. Eric Black said police in B.C. use a program called PRIME (Police Records Information Management Environment) to document an investigation or occurrence of an event. This program has a series of parameters under which a file is ‘scored’, Black said, and the scoring is then reported to Stats Can where the information is compiled and submitted in a public report.
However, Black said that as the files are ‘scored’ at the Detachment level, there can be inconsistencies and errors between how a similar event is viewed between each police of jurisdiction and sometimes even within the same RCMP Detachment.
“In 2019 there were some changes to the way files were reported to StatCan,” Black said in an email to the Northern Sentinel. “This resulted in some files now being reported that previously had not been. Hence, it can contribute to some of the spike in the CSI.”
Kitimat has both a rural and a municipal component to its area, with rural being anything outside the District of Kitimat (DoK) boundaries. Black said that, while there is a large rural area they are responsible for, majority of the population lives in the municipal boundaries. Black said they separate the reports based on where they occur in Kitimat.
“Over the past year their has been an increase in crime outside the DoK boundary which was reported as being rural,” Black said. “It appears that at StatCan, the rural and municipal crime stats were combined. My thought is that as we essentially have no or minimal rural population levels they are unable of reporting rural crime by crime severity index due to the formula used to arrive at this number.”
Black said that it’s not unusual to have fluctuations in VCSI and NVCSI, as the actual types of crime depend upon a number of factors including, but not limited to: repeat serious offenders being released from custody; demographic changes in the community; and economic changes in the community.
“Simply put, sometimes there are more thefts than assaults and sometimes more assaults than thefts. Keep in mind that often, crimes are unreported,” Black said. “I attribute an increase in non-violent crime to technological improvements. Better data retrieval methods have been developed that police can use through Judicial Authorizations (search warrants), which have made it easier to obtain evidence of offences such as threats and allow the Courts to hold people accountable for their internet and social media use.”
Of the 189 municipalities in British Columbia for which 2019 police-reported statistics are available, Kitimat ranked 76th in CSI, 56th in VCSI and 80th in NVCSI.
Black said it’s important to note that the CSI is not simply the number of crimes in a city, but are numbers “derived from a formula accounting for both the severity of crime and the number of crimes occurring in the community.”
“In a smaller community such as Kitimat it does not take a significant increase in crime to significantly increase the Crime Severity Index by several percent. Consequently, this number does not directly equate to Kitimat being in the top 60% of the most crime ridden communities in B.C.,” Black continued. “As a case in point, one serious crime in Kitimat, a town of approximately 10,000, would have the same impact as that same crime occurring 10 times in a city with a population of 100,000.”
However, Black added that the CSI does provide benefit as it offers good insight into RCMP call volume and the seriousness of those calls.
Black said the DoK Council identified and created a list of several measures to get ahead of any potential increase in needs for policing, health, fire services, and other social requirements this community may need.
“Specifically for the public safety aspect, the Mayor and Council approved funding for two (2) additional RCMP Members for the Detachment,” he said. “Through my reports and with the Mayor and Council’s assistance the Province also approved an additional two (2) RCMP Members for Kitimat.”
Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth confirmed that Council gets regular updates from the Kitimat RCMP, and said they are pleased with the work the RCMP does to keep the Kitimat community safe.
“Of course there is concern anytime there are increases in crime rates. However, as we understand from discussions with the RCMP, Kitimat’s increased non-violent crime rate between 2018 and 2019 can be partially attributed to changes in the way that incidents are reported and tracked,” Germuth said in a statement to the Northern Sentinel “As always, we will continue to work closely with the Kitimat RCMP to monitor and prevent criminal activity in Kitimat, and ultimately strive to keep our community safe for everyone.”
In the StatCan report, Terrace ranked 15th with a CSI of 208.96.76 and Prince Rupert ranked 19th at 187.72.
Quesnel ranked number one among municipalities in the province for the second year running with a CSI of 289.92, which was actually slightly down from 2018.
Quesnel also took top spot for NVCSI at 318.72, while Dease Lake had the highest VCSI in the province at 670.29.
The Top 10 among all reporting police jurisdictions in B.C. were: Quesnel, Williams Lake, Prince Rupert (rural), Fort St. James (rural), Duncan (rural), Dease Lake (rural), Prince George, Port Hardy (rural), Agassiz (rural) and Merritt.
Municipalities that fell out of the Top 10 from last year are Hope (rural), Alexis Creek, Hope (municipal), Terrace and Dawson Creek.
B.C.’s big cities, Kelowna, Vancouver, Abbotsford-Mission and Victoria ranked fourth, ninth, 11th and 17th respectively among Canada’s 37 census metropolitan areas (CMAs).
The Top 5 CMAs in the country were: Lethbridge; Winnipeg, Man.; Regina, Sask.; Kelowna; and Saskatoon, Sask.
StatCan started tracking the crime severity indices as a better reflection of the relative safety of communities in 1998.
Nearly 40 per cent of police-reported crimes in Canada are theft under $5,000 and mischief. The calculation of the severity indices gives lesser weight to these types of crimes and more to violent and serious crimes.
Black said that the Kitimat RCMP is constantly working with the Mayor and Council, as well as other partner agencies, to be in a position to prevent and reduce crime in the community.
“Almost every call to police requires some response, whether from one or a few officers. Being able to pro-actively police, by just being in the community, is a great deterrent to crime and provides a feeling of security,” Black said. “While we always strive to ‘get our perpetrator’, policing a community is a group effort. We need the continued assistance of the community and help whether from a Victim or a Witness. We need people willing to step up and see it through.”
“At the end of the day it’s not about putting someone in jail, it’s about creating positive change,” he added. “Positive change in the community, in a neighbourhood, or, in someone’s life.”