The streets of Brandon are meaner lately — according to statistics that show the city’s crime has grown more violent, even as the number of crimes reported to police dropped.
Statistics Canada identified the trends in its police-reported crime statistics for 2013, which it released on Wednesday.
"I am pleased to see incidents of crime continuing a downward trend," Brandon Police Service Chief Ian Grant said of the overall drop in the number of crimes reported. "Having said this, there is still more work to do in our community to continue to ensure we remain a safe community and even become a safer one."
Manitoba’s stats show that the number of police-reported crimes went down by 9.4 per cent to 110,370 last year from 121,815 in 2012. Back in 1998 — the earliest stats available — the number of reported crimes was 131,558 and they peaked at 159,957 in 2004.
Meanwhile, the province’s crime rate per 100,000 people is at 8,724.80, which was down 10.47 per cent from 2012 to 2013.
In Brandon, the number of reported crimes fell by 13.5 per cent to 3,748 last year from 4,333 the year before. The rate per 100,000 people dropped by 14.45 per cent to 7,783.85 from 9,098.93.
At the same time, though, the number of cases cleared also dipped. Specifically, it fell by 12.9 per cent to 1,797 last year from 2,063 the year before.
The year with the highest level of resolved cases within the last 16 years was 2002 with 3,558.
The cases cleared by a charge being laid was down by six per cent to 1,356 last year from 1,437 the previous year.
Serious crime is down 35 per cent overall to a rating of 100.34 in 2013, compared to 154.49 in 1998.
But the violent crime severity index for the same period is up 7.8 per cent to 101.10 compared to 93.78 in 1998. And it jumped in 2013 compared to 2012 — up 14 per cent from 88.67 — after scoring a 16-year low in 79.34 in 2011.
"Our non-violent index and overall index is down from 2012," Grant said. "The violent crime index is up, but that is attributable in large part to the number of homicides recorded in 2013, compared to other years, and the weighting system given to this offence."
The city recorded four homicides in 2013.
The force also questioned the manner in which the crime severity index is calculated.
For example, if one incident brings four charges, the CSI calculation counts only the most serious offences, which leads to some offences being under-represented in the calculation.
On a brighter note, fewer accused are winding up in court.
Police charged 981 adults last year, which marked the first time in the last 16 years that fewer than 1,000 adults faced charges.
There was also a spike in the number of youth who were charged. In 2013, there were 382, which is 70 more than the previous year. But last year’s number for kids charged is less than half the number charged in 2002, which marked a recent high of 960.
On all of the 2013 measures, Brandon is doing better than the provincial average, but it lagged behind national averages.
In Mountie territory surrounding the city, the crime rate in the Blue Hills RCMP area has soared overall since 2000.
There were 338 reports in 2000, the number of crimes then reached a high of 817 in 2008 before it shrank to 567 in 2013.
Blue Hills RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike Zens said one possible reason for the long-term increase in the number of crimes for his area is computer crime.
Social media has become an easy venue to earn an uttering threats charge, for example, and crooks have proven willing to use the Internet to commit frauds.
"Those are the types of crimes back in 2000 we never saw, or never saw that many of, and now in 2014 those are common occurrences," Zens said.
The overall crime severity index in the Blue Hills area, including the severity of violent crime, has consistently dropped over the last five years.
The crime severity index for 2013 was at 100.34 compared to 137.65 back in 2009, or a 37 per cent reduction. The violent crime severity index went to 136.01 from 177.98 during the same span — a 30.8 per cent dive.
The Dakota Ojibway Police Service — which includes such Westman First Nations as Birdtail Sioux First Nation, Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation, Sandy Bay First Nation, and Sioux Valley Dakota Nation — has seen a slight drop in the number of reports in recent years.
The 3,637 cases logged in 2013 is the lowest figure in a steady decline from a 16-year high of 4,667 recorded in 2010. In 2010, there was also a high in the crime severity index of 864.14, but that fell to 639.46 in 2013.
The DOPS violent crime severity marker jumped dramatically in 2010 to 1,564.84 from 578.03 in 2009, which was more in line with previous years.
But yet again, there has been a slight drop and the rate stood at 1,086.59 last year.
DOPS took over policing the Waywayseecappo First Nation from RCMP in May of this year, so it wouldn’t be reflected in the latest figures.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 24, 2014