November 26th, 2020

City tops national crime index


By Lethbridge Herald on October 30, 2020.

Mayor Chris Spearman, alongside deputy police chief Scott Woods, answers reporters' questions Friday as Lethbridge once again ranked first in the annual Crime Severity Index for Canada in 2019. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com
Lethbridge once again ranked first in the annual Crime Severity Index (CSI) for Canada in 2019. Although the city did not have the highest score for violent crime in the country, and is ranked as the 26th-worst urban jurisdiction for crime in Canada, (down from 15th in 2018), Lethbridge did see an overall increase in crime of about 2.23 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018.
Mayor Chris Spearman said the increase must be kept in context.
“The health and safety of our community is always our number-one priority, which is why we take reports like this very seriously,” Spearman said. “In Lethbridge we saw a two-per-cent increase in our Crime Severity Index from 2018 to 2019. Nationwide that increase was five per cent, which tells us crime rates are not just an issue here in the City of Lethbridge, but something we are seeing increase across the country.”
“Unfortunately this is not a new challenge for us,” he added, “and we saw similar numbers in 2018, which speaks to our ongoing drug crisis and the petty crime that goes along with that. Lethbridge remains a safe city in which to live and do business. The report shows in 2019 we were one of just four municipalities that reported no homicides. Lethbridge also recorded no homicides in 2018.”
Spearman went on to say crime in Lethbridge is not just a policing issue.
“We will continue to advocate to all levels of government for our much-needed social services, and push forward with the good work within the city, and at Lethbridge Police Services, to maintain the high quality of life our residents expect and enjoy in the City of Lethbridge,” he stated. “We are encouraged by recent announcements related to permanent supportive housing, drug courts and treatment beds. But the reality is those resources aren’t here yet and will take some time to build and become operational.”
Deputy Chief Scott Woods said the data reflected in the CSI was from 2019. Since that time, he said, the City had brought The Watch fully on board, the Community Peace Officers and the Crime Suppression Team, and he hoped the 2020 numbers would more strongly reflect those initiatives for next year’s CSI.
“For example, the Crime Suppression Team on the City of Lethbridge has made a significant impact on the illegal drug trade and some of the other behaviours going on within our city,” he explained. “But I also think you have to understand that means more arrests, more charges, and some being more serious charges there could be a fluctuation on that Crime Severity Index going up as a result of that, too. That does not necessarily mean we are not making an impact on some of the things we’re doing.”
Woods said another strange aspect of the methodology behind the CSI, on top of the fact it goes up as more arrests are made by police and go into the courts, is the CSI ranks frauds, thefts and other petty crimes higher in its weighted average than violent crimes like assaults when determining the rankings.
“It’s not a real surprise to see these rates are still trending higher because a lot of things we are dealing with, with the drug crisis, with stolen autos, break and enter for residents, shopbreaking or commercial break and enters, thefts from vehicles, and those types things are on the increase, which goes back to the socio-economic and addiction issues in the city,” said Woods.
Woods expanded on that theme under questioning by reporters.
“I think we would be very naive to think that socio-economic (conditions) and poverty don’t play a role in crime,” he said. “I think there are some things going on in the community, the country, the province, that are tied to socio-economic issues as well as some other things (drugs and organized crime) contributing to the local picture.”
Woods did believe the recent Alberta recession, and the general downtown in the economy, has played a significant role in expanding the amount of crimes being committed in the city.
“Again, I think it would be naive to think with recessions, and people losing jobs, etc., is not potentially playing a role in some of the things we are seeing socially and economically in the city.”
The 2019 CSI did not take into account the two murders which have taken place in the community this year, confirmed Woods, after two years of no homicides recorded in the city, which may impact the city’s violent-crime rating on next year’s CSI.
Spearman was also asked if this increase in crime changes council’s perspective on local police funding, which may be facing a five- to 10-per-cent budget cut this year.
“We are anticipating funding reductions from the province,” he confirmed. “We just received a letter from the province yesterday from the Minister of Municipal Affairs indicating funding would be reduced. So that is going to be a challenge for us going forward. Our community has said, ‘We have no greater tolerance for increased property taxes.’ So every department in the City, including the police, has been challenged to look for efficiencies.”
Spearman said it is a difficult position to be in as an elected official to see reports like this CSI example, and still balance that with the need to find ways to reduce costs.
“To this point, about 22 or 23 per cent of our tax-funded municipal budget goes into policing,” he explained. “And when it is almost a quarter of our total spend, that’s a significant thing. We can’t say that any one area is going to be exempt from review. So the best way to deal with managing that is to ask the experts to review it — make sure the people who are running the departments, in this case the police, are addressing the issues and are looking for creative solutions. They have done it in the past and hopefully they will continue to do that.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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buckwheat

Several things jump out here.
Nationally the increase is 5%, we were only half as bad at 2%
The ongoing drug crisis. Imagine that? Self created with a little help from his friends, Phillips and Fitzpatrick.
Woods: There are 3 new groups, the Watch, CPO’s and the Crime Suppression Team. Didn’t help much this year but we hope for some better stats next year, but who knows.
We are anticipating a funding reduction from the province which is classic politician. Deflection from me (the Mayor) to Kenney the Premier. Maybe take a little local initiative and responsibility.
We need to ask where this Million and change went. Maybe to increasing our crime rate???

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Last edited 25 days ago by buckwheat
Dennis Bremner

I most like this part of Wood’s comment, and I quote:
“Again, I think it would be naive to think with recessions, and people losing jobs, etc., is not potentially playing a role in some of the things we are seeing socially and economically in the city.”
So its really not the druggies, now the previously law abiding residents are turning on Lethbridge? It’s not the drug empire, of dealers, addicts, fences, distributors and all their support groups which include “a few non addicted criminals working for this infrastructure” that has created the upswing?
Really, that’s your understanding and answer? Count me as naive’, Woods!
You hope 2020 data will be better? Have you studied cities that went our route of hosting the Southern Regions Drug Addicts? Hope it will be better is misplaced Mr Woods, very very misplaced.

Last edited 23 days ago by Dennis Bremner
Ragnar

Thank you to our idiot mayor and council for keeping us at number 1. I know they will continue to keep us at number 1 for as long as they are on council.

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eengbrec

It saddens me to read the low level of public discourse in the letters below. Agreeing and disagreeing in a civil way is critical to our democracy, Name calling and personal attacks are not.
Perhaps buckwheat and Ragnar should apply for the job as Mayor and work at making our city a better place instead

Dennis Bremner

Do you know what disagreeing in a civil way, gets you? It gets you a Mayor who pretends he has a clue on what he is doing, and declares our city to likely be the Southern Alberta Rehab Center prematurely! That then gets all the addicts shuttled into our downtown from far and wide to attend the new Mayor approved SCS Clubhouse. Thats what civility gets you!

ChuckB

Do you also know what being agreeable gets you. A Mayor and City Council that are more concerned with the rights and privileges of addicts than tax paying home owners. The addicts are our most vulnerable citizens? I call BS, the most vulnerable are our Children. They play in our parks and, as my Granddaughter has, find needles. Thank the Lord I was watching her. How would you feel Mayor Spearman and Council if even one child is injured or, perhaps has a lifelong disease from one of those needles. Remember, you supported the addicts at the expense of the taxpayer. Especially remember this next year at Election time. Are you proud of being #1 on the crime index? I’m not. And do not give me that guff about it all being petty crimes, crime is crime! I have lost around $8000 worth of things stolen. Yes, I have insurance, but, that is not the point. My wife and I worked for what we have, to enjoy it. Not to see it stolen so someone can feed their drug habit.



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