By Dale Woodard on July 29, 2021.
For the second straight year, Lethbridge has topped Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index.
The Statistics Canada report released Tuesday showed Lethbridge has a CSI index of 138.65, down roughly three per cent from 142.77 in 2019.
Lethbridge also posted a violent crime severity index of 109.32 and a non-violent crime index of 148.87.
The CSI measures the overall seriousness of crime from one year to the next by tracking both the prevalence of crime within a community and the seriousness of the crimes committed.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Lethbridge mayor Chris Spearman Wednesday morning at City Hall, Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh noted the downward crime trend from 2019 and added that number one ranking for Lethbridge isn’t exactly what it seems.
“The crime severity index is on the downward trend as it is in many parts of the country, which is good news, and crime is actually down by about 10 per cent in Lethbridge,” said Mehdizadeh.
Mehdizadeh pointed to opportunity crime as a major factor in Lethbridge.
From the LPS perspective, Mehdizadeh said they’ve rolled out some initiatives to combat that, including the Crime Reduction Methodology, introduced five months ago.
“In addition, we have been partnering with our community and our citizens in how they can do their part to reduce crime in the city because if we take the crimes of opportunity or likelihood of them away from the criminal element, we’ll still have crime in this city, but we we’re going to see a downward trend.
“We have to dig down into the information, but the majority of the crimes you’re seeing that brings the CSI up in Lethbridge has to do with property crime and the majority of the property crime here is basically opportunity crimes. My job now that COVID is over, hopefully, we can get together with our citizens and look at those partnerships and how we can together protect the city.”
Mehdizadeh also noted issues with homelessness and addiction issues and the work being done with the City through the Community Wellness and Safety task force.
“We are trying to be a player at that table and hopefully look at other partners and agencies who have the expertise in those areas to help out,” he said. “When you look at where Lethbridge sits today, this is many years of crime trends that have happened. We can’t get rid of it overnight, but the positive thing is as long as we’re seeing a downward trend in these numbers, I think that’s where we go.”
Mehdizadeh spoke of other cities mentioned on the Stats Canada list.
“I believe those are the cities in Canada that are policed by municipal police forces,” he said. “There are many other cities that have contracts with different levels of government that aren’t included in that city. If you refer to that list, we’re not number one, in fact we’re down to about number 20 on that list. Still, we don’t like to be there, but the fact we are the number one city in Canada, sometimes the way it’s reported, it may actually bring the notion this is the most unsafe community in the country and that’s not the fact. There are actually many other communities who actually have much higher CSI numbers, but they don’t get factored into the list you have because those are the municipal police forces.”
Still, the police chief conceded Lethbridge grapples with serious crimes and addiction with not enough police resources to deal with it.
“Do we have enough police resources? No. Does anyone have enough police resources? The answer is no. We can always use more,” he said. “But what I can say is the resources we have, we’re looking at everything that we can be more efficient and our actions more meaningful to serve the community. At the end, that’s all we can do. But we’re really on the path of intel-led policing and making sure our resources are deployed in the most meaningful way to support the health of the community and make it safe.”
The topping of the CSI list aside, Mehdizadeh said Lethbridge is not an unsafe community.
“Do we have crime here? Absolutely, and we’re doing whatever we can,” he said. “However, we have to be reflective of what drives these numbers up and if people want to have a safe community, it’s a collective action and partnership with the police and community, each and every citizen, to make sure we have a safer community. I think as we get that message out and hopefully educate our citizens more in how they can better protect their assets, properties and the community, I think we’ll be looking at a much better downward on this trend and get off that podium.”
Spearman said drug-related crime “has been a challenge for us in our city.”
Still, the mayor felt Lethbridge gets an unfair rap.
“Constantly referring to Lethbridge as the number-one crime city does us no good in terms of our reputation and it’s false. There are half a dozen cities in Alberta that have higher crime rates than Lethbridge, but they’re policed by the RCMP,” he said.
“I would invite the media to tell a balanced story and compare the story in Lethbridge versus crime rates in places like Peace River, Grande Prairie, Red Deer, Cold Lake and Lloydminster, because they’re all higher than us. Instead, the national story is Lethbridge number one only because we have a municipal police force. I would ask for fairness and balance because people should be proud of what we’re doing in our city. We’re being innovative with new initiatives to address this. We’re asking for 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 and offer those services to make sure they exist.”
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