Thunder Bay’s police chief is relieved the city is no longer the murder capital of Canada.
After being ranked No. 1 for homicides in 2010, the city didn’t even make the top three in 2011. Winnipeg took the title this year followed by Halifax and Edmonton.
“I have to admit I got pretty tired of that handle after a while,” said Chief J.P. Levesque. “It’s a statistic but we’re really talking about human life.”
Stats Canada released their police-reported crime report for 2011 Tuesday and Thunder Bay’s overall crime rate decreased by four points and the violent crime rate decreased by eight.
“We’re pleased to see it,” Levesque said.
However, Levesque is not pleased that Thunder Bay is No. 3 in overall crime and crimes of violence for cities with a population of at least 100,000.
“That’s something to work on and we’re hoping that this time next year we see our 2012 stats, they’ll be even better,” he said.
Levesque attributes the decline in reported crimes to the hard work of the men and women of the Thunder Bay Police Service and he said the community is also getting a better sense of the issues that drive crime like substance abuse and other social issues.
With initiatives like the alcohol management program, Levesque said there is a realization the community needs to work on these social issues and not just rely on the police to solve these problems.
Also affecting the city’s crime severity index is the rash of convenience store robberies that happened in the last year.
The chief said most of those robberies can also be attributed to social issues.
“It’s desperate people. They’re looking to get their next fix. That’s our real concern,” he said.
The crime severity index report released Tuesday showed that overall crime across the country had dropped by six per cent in 2011, which brought it to its lowest level since 1972.
But while crime overall decreased, the number of sexual offences involving children increased three per cent. Luring a child using a computer rose 10 per cent since 2010 and child pornography charges went up 40 per cent.
While the numbers haven’t spiked like that in Thunder Bay, it is a national trend that Levesque said they have to keep their eye on.
“We need to remain vigilant and cognizant of that specific area as it relates to crime,” said the chief, adding they hope to keep a lid on that type of activity through their computer crime unit.
Already more than halfway through 2012, Levesque said so far their numbers are down considerably from last year.
One thing that will be a help is the extension of the provincial anti-violence intervention strategy funding. The Thunder Bay Police Service receives about $600,000 and that fund was set to expire in March 2013.
But the funding has been extended by the province due to recent gun violence in Toronto.
“That’s really good news because that money goes directly towards our integrated gang unit to combat violence and gang-related issues,” said Levesque.
Below are Thunder Bay’s crime severity index numbers:
2011 Crime Severity Index
• Thunder Bay total crime severity index is 107.3, down -4 points from 2010
• Thunder Bay violent crime severity index is 128.7, down -8 points from 2010
• Thunder Bay is ranked 48th in Canada for the overall crime severity index
• Thunder Bay is ranked 27th in Canada for violent crime
• Thunder Bay is ranked 63rd in Canada for non-violent crime