Do we feel safer?

Each year Statistics Canada compiles the Crime Severity Index.

It’s one of those complex mathematical formulas that seemingly requires a degree in advanced mathematics to tabulate, yet it becomes a big talking point, particularly for reporters who are always trying to quantify things, particularly a community’s level of safety.

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How do you calculate it? Take the amount of crime in a community each year. Assign those crimes a weight based on the “severity.” Violent crimes are more severe than non-violent crimes.

In the case of the Estevan Police Service, in recent years, they have been placing an emphasis on two crimes in particular: impaired driving and the drug trade. An impaired driving arrest on its own isn’t assigned a lot of weight, but if it leads to a collision or even a fatality, then that the incident is weighted more heavily.

After weighing all the crimes, Statistics Canada calculates the formula for every 100,000 people.

Yes, it’s that complicated.

The crime severity index (CSI) is one of those formulas that punishes smaller communities. North Battleford has led the country in the CSI the last few years. At one time, Thompson, Man., was No. 1.

You’ll likely never see Toronto or Vancouver at No. 1.

Estevan’s rating has wavered over the years. There have been years in which Estevan has been high. It was No. 20 in 2012, when the economy was still booming and there were a lot of transient workers in the area. It remained high in 2014 due to a manslaughter case and in 2015 due to a couple of serious impaired driving-related collisions.

Estevan’s crime severity index ranking has been lower in the last couple of years. In 2016, it reached its lowest point since 2004. And in 2017, it was its lowest level ever. Estevan had the biggest decrease in the country over the last five years.

The economic slowdown has certainly been a factor. Most of the people who came to Estevan for short-term and medium-term work assignments were good, hard-working and law-abiding citizens who were here to make money so they could food on the table for their families.

But there were some troublemakers who felt no attachment to the community, and had no compunction about breaking the law.

We always pay close attention to the CSI, and people should be proud that Estevan’s ranking has dropped so much in the last five years. The Estevan Police Service (EPS) deserves a lot of credit.

However, the CSI should not be viewed as the truest test of a community’s safety.

One or two serious crimes before the end of the year could skewer Estevan’s result, and push the city into the top 40 or 50 in the country.

That doesn’t mean Estevan is any less safe than it was last year.

The truest tests of a community’s safety is with us. How safe does the average citizen feel when walking the streets at night? Do they feel confident when out for a stroll at 9:30 p.m. in a quiet but dimly-lit residential area in the middle of July? Or are they constantly looking over their shoulders?

How confident do we feel in the EPS and the Estevan RCMP? Most will tell you they’re very confident.

We think Estevan and surrounding communities are safe. Our CSI might still be higher than some communities, but in the end, we have to ask ourselves: where would we feel safer? Estevan or Toronto?

Most would say Estevan, regardless of what the index says.


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