The Masset RCMP detachment has the 12th highest crime severity index (CSI) in B.C., while Daajing Giids’ detachment rang in 68th out of the total 181 police jurisdictions.
Data released by Statistics Canada (StatCan) July 25 indicate the Masset detachment, which serves Masset, Old Massett, and Port Clements, had a CSI of 193.96 in 2021 compared to 199.41 in 2020, a 2.73 per cent decline.
Even though it was slight, this decrease marks the first time since 2016 that the CSI has gone down in the region.
The violent crime severity index (VCSI) decreased 19.62 per cent from 320.82 to 257.88.
The non-violent crime severity index (NVCSI) went up 9.82 per cent from 155.27 to 170.51.
The southern RCMP detachment which is located in Daajing Giids and also serves Sandspit and Tlell, had a CSI of 95.34 in 2021, a 7.81 per cent increase from the 2020 CSI which was 88.43.
Similar to the detachment in the northern communities, Daajing Giids’ VCSI decreased 14.42 per cent from 101.10 to 86.52.
The overall increase in the Daajing Giids’ CSI came from a 17.49 per cent increase in NVCSI, from 83.66 in 2020 to 98.29 in 2021.
Daajing Giids RCMP detachment commander Greg Willcocks said the increase in crime severity index from 2020 to 2021 is likely a result of more calls for service in 2021.
“Haida Gwaii was essentially closed to people from off-island and what that did was it reduced the amount of people that came to Haida Gwaii… As a result of having fewer people here, we generally saw fewer criminal incidences or police calls for service. So I think that would account most of the increases that we’re seeing from 2020 to 2021.”
According to his own statistics he said that the detachment had 814 calls for service in 2021 versus only 672 calls in 2020. He said looking over the past five years of data, excluding the pandemic years, they typically get an average of 800 to 1,000 calls.
When compared with other B.C. municipalities’ VCSI, Masset ranked 11th while Daajing Giids came in at 90th.
For NVCSI Masset was the 13th highest in the province and Daajing Giids was 58th.
“It’s nice to see that there’s been a decrease from previous years in both the CSI and the VCSI,” Sgt. Damon MacDonald from the Masset RCMP detachment said.
Regarding the increase in the NVCSI he said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“That includes criminal code violations such as traffic, drug violations. So that would speak to the proactive efforts of this detatchment in terms of getting, say, impaired drivers or dangerous drivers off the road or bringing drug traffickers in and holding them to account.”
For the province as a whole, the CSI was down by 4.61 per cent and the NVCSI decreased 7.55 per cent, The VCSI, however, jumped 4.32.
Both Willcocks and MacDonald noted that the crime statistics can be skewed by a small number of people in communities with fewer people.
Smaller municipalities have always been skeptical of the meaningfulness of the crime severity indices noting that a single murder, for example, or an irresponsible driver, can skew the numbers dramatically for a village of less than 5,000 people and in any given year might not necessarily reflect the overall safety of the community.
StatCan acknowledges that taken discreetly, the numbers can be misleading, but nevertheless maintains they are useful in tracking crime trends and the relative safety of communities.
“The Crime Severity Index is also a tool for measuring the increase or decrease in the severity of crime over time in any given jurisdiction, such as provinces and territories, and for comparing the seriousness of crime among jurisdictions,” an article on the StatCan website states.
“Over time, police-reported crime rates have generally been higher in the west and north than in eastern and central regions of the country. This is also true for crime severity, as measured by the new Crime Severity Index.”
Compared to national and provincial data for the period 2017-2021, Masset’s five-year average CSI of 159.14 is more than double the Canadian average of 75.3 and well-above B.C.’s 94.09 average for the same period.
The Masset average is also significantly higher than Lethbridge, Alta.’s 2021 CSI of 128.65. Last year, Lethbridge once again ranked as Canada’s most dangerous census metropolitan area (CMA), or city with more than 100,000 population.
The Daajing Giids department’s five-year CSI of 82.10 is slightly higher than the Canadian average but lower than the B.C. average.
Fort St. James (rural) ranked number one among municipalities in the province in 2021 with a CSI of 293.52, up 3.2 per cent from the year before.
Fort St. James also took top spot for NVCSI at 281.49.
Hope (rural) claimed the highest VCSI in the province at 433.36.
The Top 10 among all reporting police jurisdictions in B.C. were: Fort St. James (rural), Hope (rural), Quesnel, Prince George, Agassiz (rural), Williams Lake, Merritt, Port Hardy (rural), Penticton and Northern Rockies (rural).
B.C.’s big cities, Kelowna, Vancouver, Abbotsford-Mission and Victoria ranked second, 10th, 13th and 18th respectively among Canada’s 37 CMAs.
The Top 5 CMAs in the country were: Lethbridge; Kelowna; Winnipeg, Man.; Moncton, N.B.; and Regina, Sask.
StatCan started tracking the crime severity indices as a better reflection of the relative safety of communities in 1998.
Nearly 40 per cent of police-reported crimes in Canada are theft under $5,000 and mischief. The calculation of the severity indices gives lesser weight to these types of crimes and more to violent and serious crimes.
With files from Kaitlyn Bailey