Winnipeg police chief Keith McCaskill put a good news-bad news spin on the department's 2011 annual report.
The good news: Crime rates are declining.
The bad news: They're still way too high and probably the highest in the country among major Canadian cities.
"Our efforts are working," McCaskill said during a Monday morning news conference. "The violent crime rate is coming down, property crime rates... are coming down."
McCaskill candidly admitted at the beginning of the news conference that he was releasing the annual report Monday in a bid to counter the negative news he expects will happen today when Statistics Canada releases its annual compendium of national crime rates, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. He believes the report will show Winnipeg has the highest violent crime rate among major Canadian cities.
"It's no secret we're doing this the day before the national figures are released," McCaskill said.
The chief was quick to add, however, that the 2011 local data show crime rates are coming down in Winnipeg and he believes they will continue to decline in the coming years.
"It's not something that's going to happen overnight. We have to keep on doing this to make this a safer city and I think our stats are showing that."
How bad Winnipeg's crime rate is compared to other cities will not be fully known until later today, with the release of the national data. But McCaskill hinted Winnipeg will lead the country in key categories: the highest rate of violent crime and the highest rate of youth crime.
Much of the good news McCaskill talked about Monday had been released earlier this month by Supt. Devon Clunis at a civic committee meeting. Clunis said violent crime has been falling for two years: violent crime dropped by nine per cent from 2009 to 2010 and by a further eight per cent from 2010 to 2011.
Clunis said the number of assaults with a weapon dropped 10.6 per cent from 2009 to 2010 and a further 8.8 per cent from 2010 to 2011.
McCaskill said there are a variety of social problems -- including alcohol and drug addictions and poverty -- that contribute to Winnipeg's high crime rate, adding the declines seen for 2011 compared to 2010 cannot be attributed solely to police work.
McCaskill said several government and non-government agencies are tackling the social problems and they should be credited along with police with helping to produce a decline in the crime rates.
"There are a lot of interesting things going towards reducing that crime rate and we're part of that strategy."
McCaskill identified several Winnipeg police initiatives he said were helping to rein in crime: the introduction of a citizen's action network and a violent-crime-reduction strategy, increased enforcement in the downtown area, targeting outlaw motorcycle gangs and a variety of police-led initiatives to mentor high-risk youth and provide alternatives to gang life.
McCaskill predicted the crime rates would continue to decline if the services continues to press these initiatives, but he acknowledged a new police chief might set different priorities.
Winnipeg's homicide rate for 2011 is almost double that for 2010 (41 versus 22) but McCaskill said there was an unprecedented surge in domestic homicide, a situation he said cannot be anticipated.
While Winnipeg has a high youth crime rate, McCaskill said part of that is a reflection that the province has the largest percentage of people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the country.
Highlights of the Winnipeg Police Service 2011 report:
Comparing crime -- 2011 vs. 2010:
|Sexual assault (Common)||644||678|
|Sexual assault with a weapon||11||10|
|Other violent crimes||29||42|
(*On June 25, Police said missing persons Tanya Jane Nepinak and Carolyn Marie Sinclair had been murdered in 2011, raising the number of 2011 homicides in 2011 from 39 to 41)
- 14% decrease in overall crime
- 8% decrease in violent crimes
- 18% decrease in property crimes
- 3% decrease in drug crimes
- 2% increase in all other crimes
- Per capita costs: $291.68 - $280.01
- Police per residents: 1:489 - 1:488
- Tax-supported expenses: $201.8 million - $191.5 million