If I were to tell you the crime rate in Winnipeg is not only down, but way, way down, would you believe it?
Regardless, that's the message city hall's shiny new police board will likely hear on Friday, delivered by our also (relatively) new police chief, Devon Clunis.
In an agenda report tabled Tuesday for the board's gathering, police detail their latest (third-quarter) crime statistics as compared to the same January-September period in 2012.
The notable highlights the board will hear about include:
- Violent crimes down nearly 10 per cent — and 22.5 per cent lower when seen on a five-year average. (The police service prefers looking at the five-year average to get a sense of the "norm" for crime incidents.)
- Decreases in robberies, assaults and sexual assaults. (Although commercial and 'strong-arm' robberies are lumped together, so it's hard to get a clear picture of how this decrease impacts public safety. I've often considered our horrendous mugging rate to be a true reflection of how safe city streets actually are).
- Property crimes down 19.4 per cent (more than 30 per cent lower on the five-year average).
- Drug offences dipping nearly four per cent, more than 15 per cent over five-year average.
- Astonishingly, police say arson events are down nearly 45 per cent over 2012, when there were 368 confirmed arsons — but they caution they use a different methodology than the fire department as to what counts as arson. Anecdotally, it appears to me the use of fire as a weapon or tool of revenge is climbing, but that's solely my opinion. Also compounding the problem of getting a clear picture of the arson situation is the police stats only count arson to property and not arson, disregard life, which the service considers a violent crime but doesn't provide a stat for that category.
- If there are some low notes the police board will hear about, it will be a slight increase in impaired driving (2.1 per cent higher) — but that could be an indication of greater enforcement efforts.
- Attempted-murder cases (among the hardest criminal charges to prove in court) have risen as well by 50 per cent. While the percentage increase is high, the actual number of incidents is low (nine this year so far over six in the same period in 2012).
- Also concerning are the rising number of firearm-related offences (use, discharge or pointing). Those are up 35 per cent — 27 incidents this year so far over 20 in same period last year.
- Frauds are up nearly 15 per cent (over and under $5,000).
Police are also likely continuing to be concerned about the rise in assaults on peace officers, which is up nearly eight per cent over 2012 — a year when they were already quite high.
Most interesting from a 'social liveabilty' perspective is how the so-called 'nuisance offence' of being intoxicated in public is up neary 13 per cent over last year.
The full stats report is presented below. Read for yourself and weigh in in the comments.
Is Winnipeg a safer city today over a year ago? Or are people just reporting crimes much less than they used to?