There’s been a lot of discussion around Guelph lately about the safety of the city, the need for more police, and the newly instigated debate about how much is too much policing. Perhaps this will help the conversation. The Crime Severity Index numbers for 2019 have been released, and although Guelph hasn’t reclaimed a top spot as one of Canada’s safest communities, we have seen a decrease for the first time in six years.
According to the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics branch of Statistics Canada in their report released Thursday, the Crime Severity Index, or CSI, for 2019 for Guelph is 64.6, which is a decrease of 9.4 per cent from 2018, but an increase of eight per cent since 2009. The CSI is determined by the total number of crimes but weighted for violent and non-violent crimes, and expressed as a rate per 100,000 people.
The CSI for all of Canada increased by 4.1 per cent in 2019, but has actually decreased by nine per cent since 2009 There were over 2.2 million police-reported “Criminal Code incidents” in 2019 including increases in charges related for fraud, child pornography, uttering threats, mischief and shop lifting.
Homicide rates across Canada went up by two per cent in 2019, an increase of 20 from 2018. Out of the 678 homicides from across Canada in 2019, 174 of the victims were Indigenous which is an increase of 33 from 2018, and is a reminder again of the disproportionate effect of violent crime on Canada’s First Nations people, who are six-and-a-half times for likely to be the victim of homicide than non-Indigenous people.
Guelph was in the top four communities with the largest decreases in CSI behind Brantford, Sherbrooke, and Halifax. Guelph was also one of four communities in Canada to go two years in a row without a homicide, and though we will not make that three years in a row with 2020, will still saw a decrease in violent crime by 17.1 per cent last year.
Guelph’s decrease in violent crime severity is led by decreases in sexual violations against children, level one assault, and extortion. In fact, the crime rate was down in most areas with the notable exception of fraud, which increased 27 per cent last year.
The CSI and the report cover the last calendar year, so it does not reveal the effects of either COVID-19 or the budget increase for additional hires by the Guelph Police Service. The effect from those factors will be reflected in next year’s CSI.
Along with the crime stats, the Guelph Police Service improved its clearance rate, which is to say its rate of successfully prosecuting offenders, by 4.9 per cent in 2019. “This is a testament to the work of our members and our many community partners who work hard to ensure our city remains a safe community for all of our citizens,” said the Service’s media release.
You can see the full Crime Severity Index report on the StatsCan website here.