Canada’s crime rate rose by two per cent in 2018, with fewer break-and-enter cases reported but a sharp increase in fraud, including identity theft.
The good news is that Canada’s crime rate is 17 per cent lower than it was 10 years ago. The bad news is that it crept up by two per cent compared to the year before.
Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index (CSI) counts the number of police-reported offences and assigns a weight to each crime, based on the violation’s incarceration rate. The weighted offences are then divided by the population to determine crime rates for the country’s 35 census metropolitan areas (CMAs).
In 2018, Canada recorded 651 homicides, which was 15 fewer than 2017. The biggest decreases were in Alberta and B.C., while the largest increase was in Ontario with 69 more homicides than in 2017.
Violent crimes were up by one per cent over 2017, led by a 15 per cent increase in the police-reported rate of sexual assault and a 44 per cent increase in extortion. But violent crimes were down 13 per cent from 2008.
Non-violent crimes were down 19 per cent from 10 years ago but up two per cent from 2017. Fraud, including identity theft and identity fraud, increased for the seventh year in a row and was up 12 per cent between 2017 and 2018.
Because of the number of crimes that take place in Canada’s largest cities, many people assume that they have the worst crimes rates. Toronto had a particularly bad year in 2018 with three major events impacting the city’s reputation as a safe city. Early in the year, the bodies of eight murder victims, who were killed between 2010 and 2017, were discovered and a serial killer was arrested. Later, a van attack in North York killed 10 pedestrians and injured 13. And a year ago, a shooting on Danforth Avenue killed two and injured 13. All of these events drove up Toronto’s crime rate.
Yet, on the Police-reported Crime Severity Index, Toronto had the fifth lowest score out of 35 CMAs.
Quebec City had the lowest score, followed by Saguenay, Que., Peterborough, Ont. and Barrie, Ont. Of the major cities, Ottawa and St. John, N.B. had low rates close to Toronto’s, followed by Montreal, Victoria, Halifax, St. John’s, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
The highest rate was recorded in Lethbridge, Alta., followed by Regina, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton.
The largest drops in CSI were reported in Belleville, Ont., Saguenay and Peterborough. The latter two cities had big decreases in the number of break and enter offences, which helped bring the rate down.
“According to some police services, part of the increase in fraud was attributable to increased access for reporting fraud online,” says Greg Moreau of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics in a report on the findings. “Additionally, certain types of scams have drawn the attention of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the news media, particularly general online or telephone scams, such as the Canada Revenue Agency scam and pre-paid gift card scams.”
The biggest increases in police-reported fraud took place in the Northwest Territories, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Since 2012, the rate of fraud has increased almost every year in most provinces and territories, says Moreau.
The report says that in 28 of 35 CMAs, fraud rates increased. The largest increases were recorded in Moncton, Windsor, Ont., Peterborough, Ont., Trois-Rivieres, Que., St. John’s and Victoria.
The good news for homeowners is that seven provinces and territories reported decreases in the rates of breaking and entering. Perhaps partly because of the increased use of home security systems, the rate has been dropping steadily since the early 1990s. But in 2018, most of the decrease took place outside of the cities, where the rate increased by one per cent. Prince Edward Island saw a 21 per cent increase in the rate of breaking and entering and a 17 per cent increase in theft of $5,000 or under, which does not include shoplifting.
Identity theft (defined by the RCMP as the preparatory stage of acquiring and collecting someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes) and identity fraud (the actual deceptive use of the identity information of another person, living or dead, in connection with various frauds) continues to be a concern. The Statistics Canada report says incidents of identity theft and identity fraud increased from 17,639 in 2017 to 19,584 in 2018.
The RCMP says homeowners should always be wary of calls or emails that demand personal or financial information and should make sure the person who is calling is really who they say they are.
“Be particularly wary of unsolicited emails, telephone calls or mail attempting to extract personal information from you,” advises the RCMP.
Identity thieves are looking for your full name, date of birth, social insurance number, full address, mother’s maiden name, passwords for online services, driver’s license number and your PIN numbers.
Shred personal and financial documents before putting them in the garbage and clean out your mailbox promptly after the mail has arrived. Keep on top of your credit card and debit charges and periodically check your credit reports to make sure you don’t become a victim of identity theft.