Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 30, 2012

Treat crime statistics cautiously, RCMP urge

Recent reports by Statistics Canada indicate crime rates in the Yukon remain much higher in several areas, when compared with the national average.

By Max Leighton on January 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Recent reports by Statistics Canada indicate crime rates in the Yukon remain much higher in several areas, when compared with the national average.

A 2009 survey shows one in three residents of Canada’s territories has been the victim of a crime in the last year.

It also reports 46 per cent of the 38,000 self-reported incidences were violent, compared to 30 per cent nationwide.

But is the Yukon really worse off than the rest of the country? It depends on who you ask.

According to the RCMP, stats are only part of a much larger equation.

The Yukon, for instance, has the lowest crime rate of the three territories.

Stats Can’s crime rates are based on a 100,000 population. The Yukon currently has a population of just over 34,000, which makes calculating rates a challenge.

“In general, you want to deal with stats very carefully,” David Gilbert, the director of organizational strategy with the Whitehorse RCMP, told the Star last week.

“We tend to treat them as an absolute indication, when really they are more of a general signal, like a sign post, which can point you in the right direction.”

Crime rates are also influenced by several outside factors, said Gilbert, a civilian member of the police force.

“Among these are things like relative poverty, education, police services, social support services, the corrections system, any number of factors,” said Gilbert.

One way the RCMP say they have been addressing crime is by tackling the underlying causes.

The 2008 case of Raymond Silverfox, who died in police custody, was a major factor in a 2010 police review to assess the force’s interaction with the public.

“Certainly in the last year, the RCMP have taken a good look at our relationships with the communities,” said Gilbert.

“Since 2010, one of our central ideas has been that policing can’t be successful without community co-operation. We need to have a good relationship and share common ground with the people we work for.”

The RCMP point out successes in involvement of First Nations and other community members in policing decisions. An example is the inclusion of community members in the selection of the new detachment co-ordinator in Watson Lake.

It is difficult to determine what effect their efforts have had.

According to another Stats Can report, the territorial crime rate has dropped by 12 per cent since 2000.

In that same period, rates of violent crime have diminished 29 per cent in the Yukon, while property crime has fallen 25 per cent.

Despite improvements, some areas of the Yukon’s crime rate remain high.

Rates of severe crime, violent crime and youth crime are still well above the national average, as are incidences of vehicle thefts.

Another area where rates remain disturbingly high is in domestic violence.

The 2009 survey indicates that nearly one in five violent incidents in the North were committed by either a current or former spouse, or partner.

Those rates were the highest among adults aged 15 to 34, First Nations people and those living in low income households.

Women remain the most likely victims.

According to a report published by the Yukon Women’s Directorate, the territory has rates of sexual offences two to three times the national average, or about 194 offences per 100,000 population.

The RCMP claim the solution to curbing the territory’s crime rate is continuing engagement with the community and a focus on working with service groups — especially women’s organizations.

Gilbert points out their relationship with Yukon Sisters in Spirit, an organization working to bring justice to missing and murdered aboriginal women in the Yukon.

“We are working with a ‘no wrong door’ approach,” said Gilbert.

“We don’t insist that people come to us after an incident. Some people may be more comfortable going to another organization in confidence, and that is why we encourage people to speak with service groups as well.”

It’s an approach police believe has contributed to a drop in crime overall, though they recognize that much more needs to be done.

“I think we need to do more of what we are doing,” said Gilbert.

“We don’t have all the answers at the present time, but we are certainly working with the right groups and being open to what they are telling us. If we continue to do that, we’ll see continued benefit.”

CommentsAdd a comment

Steve E

Jan 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm

I would in the past, enjoy a walk through downtown Whitehorse during the evening. Not any more, too risky for me.

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