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October 22, 2017
July 25, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Crime is more than the headline

Written by Jeff Samsonow

 

We don’t mention a lot of the crime stories that make up a fair portion of local news, but we will touch upon Statistics Canada giving us a bigger picture look at the issues last year.

Canada’s crime rates continue to decline from the early 90s.

While some of the Edmonton headlines are focused on our homicide rate, Edmonton’s crime rate, and those across the country, continue to decline since a peak in the 1990s. These Statistics Canada numbers aren’t looking at total crimes though, they’re looking at the volume and severity of crimes to come up with a ranking (Edmonton had a slight uptick in 2016). The Crime Severity Index (CSI) puts more weight on violent crimes than it does petty ones (like breaking into a car). And, the report notes, crimes related to fraud are the reason there was an increase in the CSI last year.

So, as always, with local news prioritizing crime and violence, there’s much more to the story.

Councillor Scott McKeen makes a good point on this, that homicides can swing quite a bit year-to-year and may have little to do with our overall safety. The CSI as a whole, which shows Edmonton about the same 2015 to 2016, is probably a better way to gauge what’s happening in our city (and the capital region, as a lot of stats include our suburb cities like St. Albert and Sherwood Park). And it’s a good idea to dig into the numbers from a particular city, metro region, or province, since there can be quite a bit of variation between locations which could deviate from the national rates. (Alberta’s CSI did go down last year, even as Edmonton was up a little bit.)

The Crime Severity Index. Declining since 1998.

And then there are crimes in the category of sexual assault, where Statistics Canada says only 5% are being reported to police and captured in a report like the Crime Severity Index (compared to reporting rates of about 31% for all crimes). How police investigate is still up for much debate, including whether a case file is even opened or investigation pursued. StatsCan is going to be looking into these “unfounded” cases for a report next year. (The Globe and Mail’s investigation into police dismissing sexual assaults is responsible for helping push this change.)

You can also see Edmonton Police 2016 stats on crimes, including the EPS’ own crime severity index, in its Q4 report of last year. This is another good data point and analysis to help fill in the picture.

One more thing. Journalists writing up crime stories need to remember that a homicide isn’t necessarily a murder. A homicide is any death caused by someone else. So it’s absolutely incorrect to call the 47 homicides from the Edmonton area recorded in the Statistics Canada report murders. It’s misleading and contributes to people thinking crime is on the rise or becoming more violent when the opposite is true.


Around the city

Edmonton women will soon be able to get the abortion pill whenever they may need it, for free. The provincial government is rolling out coverage of the prescription, and more pharmacists and doctors are being trained-up on what the pill is about so they can prescribe it.

Fort Saskatchewan programming for restorative justice was among many which picked up some more funding from the Alberta government recently. Among the kinds of programs the group runs are a men’s group focused on relationships, and school-based interventions and conflict resolution. We were recently talking about the success of such programming in schools in comparison to students being suspended or expelled.

Edmonton’s got a lot of public fruit trees and bushes, you’ve probably seen some apples or berries walking around various neighbourhoods. Now you can see where all of these trees are on one map. (And then you can bake yourself some pies!)

There’s a man in Old Strathcona with a magic horticultural touch. The other nice thing about this story is that the main focus is a man who is homeless. He’s not in the story for any of the usual, or stereotypical, reasons someone who is homeless is in a news story, and that’s just a nice bit of normalization. People who are homeless are more than where they spend the night.

Keeping up on this plant-based theme, you may notice the City’s new solar-powered watering tricycles out on the downtown bike lanes.

After a year, St. Albert’s got a new top cop in their RCMP detachment.

Edmonton is not alone in having local news media cut their arts coverage and criticism. The latest issue of Alberta Views has a look at what’s happening in our province, and some of the potential options.


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