Prince George still high on crime stats list
A report released Thursday from Statistics Canada placed Prince George 11th in Canada for severe crime and seventh in violent crimes, however Prince George RCMP Supt. Eric Stubbs wants residents to know that, unless you live a high-risk lifestyle, it is unlikely you will be a victim of a violent crime in the city.
The city sits at more than double the index of the average set for severe and violent crimes across Canada. For violent crimes, the average is 88.9 while Prince George is at 192.5.
“The numbers are predictable and expected given the number of homicides we had last year,” Stubbs said during a press conference Thursday.
He added that, in response to the nine homicides in the city last year, the RCMP have made a concerted effort to improve things. And, he said, the majority of those nine homicides involved organized crime and were targeted.
Stubbs explained there are a lot of reasons why Prince George has such major issues with crime. For one, it is the gateway to the north, and therefore a highly favourable target for gangs who can use the city as a base of distribution throughout the north.
Social issues also play a part, Stubbs said.
“There are also a lot of social and economic factors we have to address.”
Addictions, mental health and poverty do sometimes result in crime being committed, he said. However, the RCMP are working with social agencies to attack the problem.
Another concern to Stubbs is the amount of firearms in the area. From AK-47s to shotguns, hand guns and long guns, the police have seized numerous types of weapons.
Yet another issue is people who have committed crimes in nearby communities moving to the city because they have burned their bridges at home, so to speak, and who often think they can move to Prince George and lose themselves in a bigger community, continuing their criminal lifestyle without notice.
Seizing weapons, special teams like the gang task force and the downtown enforcement unit have helped to make a difference, however.
Stubbs said they have seen a decrease in crime in 2011 thanks to these initiatives. That may also skew the statistics somewhat. The stats count how many people are caught doing something illegal, therefore if you have more officers on the street catching criminals, naturally the number caught will be higher. This does not necessarily reflect there is more crime, just that there is more enforcement.
However, Stubbs said the statistics cannot be ignored. Proactive rather than reactive policing, like the initiatives the RCMP have developed locally, will likely affect some of the numbers, however the sheer volume of calls means more strategic work for the RCMP.
Making the city safer is also the responsibility of citizens. Securing valuables, looking out for your neighbours and reporting suspicious behaviour to the RCMP will all help to make a difference.
The top three cities with the most severe crimes according to Statistics Canada are North Battleford, Sask., Thompson, Man. and Yellowknife, NWT. The top three for violent crimes are Thompson, Man., North Battleford, Sask. and Prince Albert, Sask.