St. Albert tumbled down the list of Maclean’s magazine’s safest cities in Canada, but it appears that might have had more to do with how the numbers were added up.
St. Albert went from the sixth-safest city nationally and the safest in Western Canada last year to the 31st safest on the magazine’s list.
In Western Canada, St. Albert is now fifth behind several cities including Saanich, B.C. and nearby Strathcona County.
Based on 2009 statistics, the magazine ranks 100 cities to compile a list of the most dangerous ones. This year the most dangerous city in the country was Prince George, B.C., followed by Victoria, Regina and Saskatoon.
The safest city was Caledon, Ont., followed by Wellington County, Ont., Halton Region, Ont., and Levis, Que.
This year the magazine used a different measure than in other years in the Crime Severity Index (CSI), a tool Statistics Canada developed measuring not only the rate at which crimes are occurring, but also how serious they are.
A standard crime rate measures the number of crimes in a community and the number of people living there. Using that method, a community that had 10 murders would have the same crime rate as a community that had 10 stolen bikes.
In previous years, Maclean’s crime rate included six specific crimes: breaking and entering, aggravated assault, robbery, murder, sexual assault and auto theft. The magazine then ranked how communities compared to the national average.
This year it ranked communities based on the entire index. St. Albert’s is 17 per cent below the national average on the CSI.
St. Albert RCMP Insp. Warren Dosko said the community did not see any kind of huge spike in crime last year and it ultimately comes down to the changed methodology.
“If you were to use the same ranking we would once again fall in the top 10.”
The magazine is still tracking how a community compares on those six crimes. On those rankings, St. Albert continues to do well.
In robbery numbers, the city was 70 per cent below the national average for 18th overall. St. Albert was 39.3 per cent below the national average for breaking and entering, good for 11th spot. The city was also 49 per cent below the national average in sexual assaults and 31 per cent below in auto theft.
Along with many other cities on the list, there were no murders in St. Albert last year, which left the city with a rate technically 100 per cent below the national average.
Dosko notes that on those crimes, St. Albert is essentially unchanged.
Even though it hurts the community’s ranking, he said looking at the entire CSI paints a much clearer picture of a community’s crime than simply looking at a few crimes.
“Why just look at five or six crimes? Why not look at all the crime?” he said. “It is a much better indicator of how the community is doing addressing crime.”
Mayor Nolan Crouse said he doesn’t like to see the city slide down the list and he thinks it might be worth investigating why Caledon always comes out on top.
“I am going to ask our staff to see if they are worth visiting and find out what keeps them at the top all the time,” he said. “The statistics would suggest that they are doing something right.”
During the election campaign Crouse said he highlighted the need for more RCMP officers and for a neighbourhood safety program.
While he wants to understand more about how the statistics are calculated, he believes the city should continue to strive to move up the list, he said.
“I am a believer in scorecards. It is a score of how you are doing.”