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Saskatoon Top of Crime Heap

Saskatoon led Canada in overall crime rate in 2014

Police Chief Clive Weighill

Statistics Canada reports that the crime rate in Saskatoon led all Canadian cities in 2014. It also topped the list for the crime severity index, a tool used to measure offenses according to the severity of the penalties in court.

"I think it's indicative of what we've seen in the past two or three years occurring in Saskatoon," said Police Chief Clive Weighill.

"We've been growing, we've seen an increase in the drug trade, methamphetamine is causing us problems, that's what's really driving our property crime, theft of vehicles, theft from vehicles." He says the results from the report can be tracked back to addictions and poverty.

He said there is a significant marginalized population in Saskatoon living in poverty with poor housing and few prospects. These people often gravitate to crime, he said.

Until these social issues are dealt with, Weighill said the city can expect to see more of the same. "The trend for our higher crime rate is continuing," he said.

Saskatoon Police arrest

Police Chief Clive Weighill said the crime is both opportunistic, and organized.

Organized crime groups from outside the province are drawn to Saskatoon because of the city's strong economy.

"We're up 14% already this year for property crime… and we've had an increase this year in violence with the gangs, with some shootings."

"It's not going to be solved overnight. We've got to understand that people do need help in our community. It's a very small percentage of people that cause most of the crime."

Weighill said the overall crime picture in Saskatoon is improving. "We have come down in crime by about 40% over the past decade"

Despite the numbers, Weighill believes Saskatoon is a safe community.

Murder Rate Tied for Highest - 2003

Saskatoon's murder rate tied for highest among major Canadian cities last year, matching Winnipeg's rate, according to a report that also identifies Saskatchewan as the province with the highest crime rate.

With six homicides last year, the city's murder rate is 3.4 per 100,000 people.

The murder count is slightly greater than the city's 10-year average, and the most in the past four years. Among the deaths were a murder related to sex charges, a house-party stabbing and the slaying of a sex-trade worker.

With 1,625 violent incidents per 100,000 people, according to a report of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) released Thursday, the city also owns the dubious distinction of being Canada's violent-crime capital for 2002, despite a 1% drop in the city's rate over 2001.

But the troubling rankings are "absolutely not" an indicator that Saskatoon is one of the most dangerous cities in Canada, said Acting Insp. Lorne Constantinoff of Saskatoon Police Service.

The city cops have the second-highest clearance rate in Canada -- a measurement of how often crimes result in charges -- Constantinoff said, referring to CCJS data.

"Police are getting the job done."

Poverty, fed by a lack of education and employment, and dysfunctional families lead to many of Saskatchewan's violent crimes, said Katrine McKenzie, director of victim services for the province. Most attackers are previously linked to their victims.

"If people are afraid of crime, they're afraid of a stranger breaking into their house or coming up to them on the street. In reality, these (people involved in crimes) are people who know each other."

Violent crime in Saskatoon is "impulsive" and often motivated by rage fuelled by alcohol and drugs, Constantinoff said.

He said he doesn't know of any gang-related murder ever occurring in the city.

Among provinces, Saskatchewan recorded the highest rate of violent crime for the fourth consecutive year, the highest crime rate overall, the highest break-in rate and the second-highest rate of property crime, causing Saskatchewan Party Leader Elwin Hermanson to suggest youth work camps and more cops as the solution.

The high rankings come despite an overall decrease in the province's crime rate. Saskatoon's crime rate was stable.

"We are encouraged by the modest reductions in the crime rate we see for 2002, but we know there is more work to be done," read a statement issued by Corrections and Public Safety Minister Andrew Thompson. "We are on the right track."

P.E.I., Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta and New Brunswick reported the largest crime rate increases last year.

"Saskatchewan is a great province," Hermanson said. "It shouldn't be the leading crime-ridden province of Canada. It just doesn't fit our personality. It just doesn't fit the nature of this province. So, obviously, there must be something wrong."

Strict discipline camps for repeat young offenders, following an Ontario model, would give them needed structure, he said.

"It's far more compassionate than allowing people to stay in the same environment, to thumb their nose at the justice system," he said.

Hermanson said the coalition government should come through on a 1999 NDP promise to hire 200 more police officers. It says to have hired 142.

Saskatoon and Regina posted the highest break-in rates among cities, although each showed declines last year. Saskatoon showed the third-highest property crime rate after Regina and Vancouver.

The good news is Saskatchewan posted the largest decline in vehicle thefts -- 13%, as this crime ebbed nationwide. Regina and Winnipeg have the highest vehicle theft rates despite double-digit drops.

Young form bulk of sex victims

Well over half of sex assault victims who report their attacks to police are youths under the age of 18, a report released Friday by Statistics Canada shows.

The study found that 61% of reported sexual assaults in Canada involved young people, and that 85% of such attacks were perpetrated on young women. These women were targeted at an older age than the boys who had been attacked. The majority of attacks on girls happened between the ages of 11 and 19, while attacks on boys were most prevalent while they were between three and 14.

The report is based on a study of Uniform Crime Reporting numbers from 2002, which relies on information from 123 police departments in nine provinces. The authors used four categories of sexual assault: level one, involving little or no injury; level two, including the use of a weapon, threats or causing bodily harm; level three, which results in wounding, maiming, disfiguring or the endangerment of the victim's life; and "other."

Overall rates for sexual assault remained stable from 2001 to 2002, continuing a four-year trend. Level two and three assaults have dropped overall since 1983, while level one incidents went up from then until 1993 before beginning to tail off.

Of the 27,100 attacks that were reported to police in 2002 - which constitute 1% of Criminal Code offences - an overwhelming 88% were classed as level one incidents. Only 2% of cases were the more serious forms of assault, levels two and three. The remaining 10% were considered "other."

The StatsCan report found that sexual assault was most often reported in Saskatchewan (with 160 incidents for every 100,000 people) and Manitoba (139). The national average was 86 incidents for every 100,000 people - above the lowest-reporting provinces of Ontario (74) and Quebec (71). Among large metropolitan areas the rates were highest in Saskatoon, Regina and Subdury and lowest in Windsor, Quebec, Toronto and Ottawa.

The actual number of sexual assaults is impossible to gauge, the authors concede, with some other surveys suggesting that up to 90% attacks go unreported.

As has been shown before, the vast majority of sexual-assault victims reported being targeted by someone they knew. Only 20% were attacked by a stranger, while 41% fell victim to an acquaintance, 28% to a family member and 10% to a friend.

The numbers were slightly different among children of both genders, with 42% overall being preyed upon by parents or relatives and only 9% falling victim to strangers. Among female child victims the numbers were even higher, with 49% falling prey to a family member.

If and when sexual-assault perpetrators go to court, they are less likely to be found guilty than those charged with violent offences, but more likely to go to jail if convicted. Conditional sentences for adult offenders are rising, though, from 9% of cases five years ago to 17% of cases last year.

Youths convicted of level two or three sexual assault are more than three times as likely to be jailed as those guilty of other violent offences.

City leads country in reported sex assaults

Saskatoon and Saskatchewan lead the country for the number of sexual assaults reported to police, according to a report released Friday by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

At 160 incidents for every 100,000 people in 2002, Saskatchewan's rate was almost double the national provincial average of 86. Saskatoon, with a rate of 155, ranked No. 1 among Canadian cities.

Interpretations of these numbers differ.

The head of Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan considers the statistics good news because they indicate assault victims are taking their complaints to the police.

"That's awesome. . . . I look at this as a positive thing," said executive director Sherri Doell.

She said Saskatoon has a dedicated group of professionals who help victims through the justice system, including several doctors who are part of a sexual assault response team and are available around the clock to examine and treat victims.

"If you are sexually assaulted and you get good care at the hospital, you are way more likely to go through the process," said Doell.

However, Saskatoon police Acting Insp. Lorne Constantinoff says the higher rates of reporting may actually indicate higher rates of sexual assaults in the city and the province. The high proportion of youth in the population may be the reason.

"The highest offending age group (for all crimes) is that 15 to 24 group. That age group in the province of Saskatchewan has been steadily increasing while that age group nationwide has been decreasing. (That age group) is responsible for 46% of (all) crimes reported," said Constantinoff.

A spokesperson for the provincial government agrees.

"We know that 15 to 24-year-olds have a higher rate of offending and victimization. More than half of the victims of sexual offences reported to police were children and youth," said Candace Congram with Saskatchewan Justice.

According to the report, 80% of the victims knew their abusers as friends, acquaintances, or family members.

National surveys suggest asmany as 90% of sexual assaults are not reported to police.

According to the statistics provided by 123 police departments in Canada, six out of every 10 victims of sexual offenses were younger than 18. Girls made up 85% of that total and those between 11 and 19 years were found to be the most likely victims.

"We're hearing from younger and younger women who are calling to report behaviors that are contributing factors to violent relationships and abuse, factors we used to see more in adults," said Christine Simmons-Physick, vice-president of child and family services at Kids Help Phone in Toronto, a non-profit help line for youth.

The statistics also show adolescent boys, ages 13 and 14, are more likely to commit minor acts of sexual assaults than any other age group. The report summary, posted on Statistics Canada's Web site, noted the offences did "not involve a weapon or injury to the victim."

Constantinoff says there's not much police can do to prevent this type of crime.

"When you combine all the social issues surrounding (assaults) alcohol, drugs, frustration from poverty and so on and so forth, you can see how all this culminates into a very high crime level. . . . It's much more of a social issue rather than just the police department," said Constantinoff.

Doell agrees it's not just the police department that must work to reduce sexual assaults, but she doesn't agree with Constantinoff's assessment of possible causes.

"Sexual assault doesn't know race or demographics or socio-economics. It happens in every segment of society all over the world because it's a power and control issue," said Doell.

While Saskatchewan has the highest rate of police-reported sexual offences, the province is following the trend throughout the country. The rates are lower than they were in the early 1990s after new sexual assault legislation was passed by Parliament in 1983.