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Police-reported crime is on the rise again, with violent crime at its highest since 2007

In a report released Thursday, Statistics Canada researchers found violent crime rose by five per cent in 2022 — after a six per cent increase in 2021 — using the Crime Severity Index, one of the tools the federal agency uses to measure crime and track the volume and severity of what's reported.

Statistics Canada report shows country returning to levels seen before pandemic

Violent crime in Canada spikes to highest level since 2007

2 hours ago

Duration 2:17

In a report released Thursday, Statistics Canada researchers found that violent crime rose by five per cent in 2022, reaching its highest point since 2007.

Police-reported crime in Canada has increased for the second year in a row, with violent crime reaching its highest point since 2007.

In a report released Thursday, Statistics Canada researchers found that violent crime rose by five per cent in 2022 — after a six per cent increase in 2021 — using the Crime Severity Index (CSI), one of the tools the federal agency uses to track the volume and severity of reported crimes.

The increase may be a sign that crime is returning to an upward trend that researchers observed before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, said Warren Silver, an analyst with Statistics Canada.

"During the pandemic, because of lockdown restrictions, a lot of crime was reduced or went down — and a lot of that was driven by non-violent crime," he said.

"It might be too early to tell if this is just a readjustment or if we're returning back to where things were earlier. But what we can say is that this is following five years of general increase, with the pandemic kind of interrupting trends."

According to Statistics Canada, crime in 2020 showed a "marked" decline in the overall volume and severity after lockdown restrictions were first implemented. Before then, the CSI had been rising for five consecutive years, beginning in 2015.

Most provinces and territories, except for New Brunswick, Yukon and Nunavut, recorded increases in the CSI from 2021 to 2022. Manitoba recorded the largest increase at 14 per cent, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Prince Edward Island, which all saw an increase of six per cent.

'Right to be concerned'

Compared with data from 2021, last year saw higher rates of homicide and sexual assault, with robbery and extortion coming in the highest with increases of 15 and 39 per cent, respectively.

Police reported 874 homicides in 2022, 78 more than the year before. The overall rate increased by eight per cent to 2.25 homicides per 100,000 population — the highest rate since 1992, the agency said.

Indigenous people and racialized people were overrepresented in crimes of violence and homicide, the report says, with police reporting 225 Indigenous and 265 racialized homicide victims in 2022.

Laura MacDiarmid, an assistant professor of justice studies at the University of Guelph Humber in Toronto, says racialized people are contending with a history of colonization and racism that is still "ongoing."

"Those contribute to … entrenchment in the criminal justice system," said MacDiarmid.

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Last year police reported a seven per cent increase in hate crimes, following a 72 per cent jump from 2019 to 2021 — with hate crimes that targetted a race, ethnicity or sexual orientation accounting for most of the increase.

Statistics Canada also found long-term increases in certain crimes. In 2022, the rate of police-reported fraud, identity theft and identity fraud was 78 per cent higher than a decade earlier.

Similarly, the rate of extortion was five times higher in 2022 than in 2012, rising from five to 25 incidents per 100,000 population, the agency said.

"I think it's disturbing," said Irvin Waller, an emeritus professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, of the overall rise in violent crime.

"We have a serious problem of violence in Canada. The public is right to be concerned about it," he said.

While non-violent crime rose by four per cent last year, it remained at a lower rate than 2021's six per cent increase. Statistics Canada said much of the increase in 2022 was due to higher rates of property crimes, including vehicle theft at 24 per cent, shoplifting at 31 per cent and minor theft at 10 per cent.

However, crime rates didn't increase across the board. Rates for non-violent crimes, such as drug offences, impaired driving, identity fraud and identity theft, declined since 2021.

But Waller said these crimes are influenced by how many police officers are out in the field or assigned to a particular problem, and the decrease isn't indicative of an improvement on the issue as a whole.

The same applies to the three per cent increase in level 1 sexual assault, which involves minor physical injuries or no injuries to the victim, he said, adding that crimes involving sexual assault and intimate partner violence are underreported to begin with.

"These statistics are not a foolproof way of measuring what's going on," Waller said.

Focus on prevention

While the data shows part of what's happening on the ground, it doesn't provide the full picture.

MacDiarmid says many people who are victims of crime choose not to report to police, and what is reported may be inherently skewed by police services overpolicing in certain areas over others.

"It's important to … evaluate what these mean in light of that," said MacDiarmid.

MacDiarmid says society is likely still seeing the effects of isolation and a lack of social services stemming from earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic driving some of the numbers up.

To get ahead of the problem, the criminal justice system can focus more efforts on prevention rather than "reaction-based" measures, she said.

"We need to put our efforts in things like education, employment opportunities," she said.

When asked about rising crime, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is working to respond through bail reform, mental health supports, harm reduction and creating opportunities for youth to get involved in the community.

"It is not right that in far too many of our cities, we're seeing an uptick in violent crime," said Trudeau.

Waller adds the solutions to lowering the crime rate lie with decreasing policing, targeted community programs for at-risk youth and families, and providing funding for more experts in the field to get involved in policy and program-making at all levels of government.

"I think it's important that even if we don't know with 100 per cent certainty why it's increasing, we do know with certainty what would reduce it," said Waller.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vanessa Balintec is a reporter for CBC Toronto who likes writing stories about labour, equity and community. She previously worked for stations in New Brunswick and Kitchener-Waterloo. You can reach her at vanessa.balintec@cbc.ca and on Twitter at @vanessabalintec.

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