Regina had the most homicides per capita in Canada in 2021: report
Regina recorded the most homicides per capita in Canada last year, according to an annual report from the Canadian Centre of Justice Statistics (CCJS).
Regina reported 15 homicides in 2021, which is the highest number ever recorded in a single year in the city, according to Regina Police chief Evan Bray.
Bray said the majority of those homicides were linked to drugs or domestic violence.
“Those two things right there, along with the prevalence of firearms in our community, it’s continuing to be a challenge,” he said.
Regina’s homicide rate was 5.67 per 100,000. Thunder Bay and Winnipeg ranked second and third, respectably, with homicide rates of 5.63 and 5.39 per 100,000.
“I think any homicide is awful. I think having that number be as high as 15 is really awful,” said Regina mayor Sandra Masters, adding in all instances the perpetrator and victim were known to each other.
“From a safety perspective, I think for the average citizen our city is safe. There are random acts of opportunity like break and enters … The personal violent crime is often, more often than not, people that are known to each other.”
Nationally, there were 778 homicides, 29 more than the previous year. This is the third consecutive year that the national homicide rate has increased.
The CCJS ranks crime rates in various categories based on census metropolitan areas (CMA) in Canada, which means Regina’s statistics take into consideration crime outside of city limits.
Regina’s total crime rate in 2021 ranks fourth among CMAs with 7,497 incidents per 100,000, up four per cent from 2020 and higher than the national average of 5,375 incidents per 100,000. In 2020, Regina ranked sixth for its total crime rate.
Bray attributed the shift to an increase in homicides, sexual assaults and break and enters.
“Behaviours changed during the pandemic and 2021 saw crime rates go up everywhere, virtually everywhere in Canada,” Bray said.
Despite increases from 2020 crime rates in almost all categories of the report, Regina’s total crime rate is down 24 per cent from a decade ago.
“We’ve seen some positive changes in the last decade,” said Bray, who remembers a time when Regina often ranked first in a number of categories in the report.
VIOLENT CRIMES ON THE RISE
At the CMA level, Regina ranks fifth in the total crime severity index (CSI), according to the CCJS report.
CSI measures the volume and severity of police-reported crime in Canada. Violent crime increased across the country in 2021, with the national violent CSI rising five per cent. According to the report, the increase was fueled by higher rates of sexual assault, harassing and threatening behaviours, and homicide.
In 2021, Canada recorded its highest rate of sexual assaults since 1996. Overall, there were 34,242 police-reported sexual assaults in Canada last year, which is about 90 incidents per 100,000.
“Pandemic-related lockdown conditions, particularly in the first year of the pandemic, could have exacerbated the underreporting of sexual assaults,” the report stated.
“Inversely, the later easing of restrictions might have led to an increase in reporting to police, either by victims or by third-party individuals or services.”
Regina CMA had a rate of 85 sexual assaults per 100,000, which is up seven per cent from 2020 and 32 per cent from 2011.
While Regina’s total CSI is down 11 per cent from 2011, its violent CSI is up 16 per cent in the same time period.
Masters said the city needs to look at tackling the root causes of domestic violence and substance abuse in order to drive down crime. She added educating youth about healthy relationships and behaviour will play an important role in the future.
“We know that if we can teach kids about healthy relationships, ten years from now numbers move,” she said.
Bray agreed that the solutions to tackling certain crime will come from a collaborative approach between the police service and community partners.
He said some crimes are easier to prevent than others.
“We can look at holding offenders accountable on indicators that might lead to a homicide,” Bray said.
“But actually preventing a homicide is very, very challenging. It is very challenging for a police service to do. It really has to be part of what I would say is an overall strategy on community wellness.”
In the future, Masters hopes the city’s community and safety well-being plan can help address some of the issues.
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