How we ranked Canada's most dangerous places

Crime has dropped across Canada in recent years. But our analysis reveals communities that have bucked that trend.

Every year, Maclean’s combs through crime statistics to rank the most dangerous places in the country. This year, we added a new measure we think is equally important—whether crime is getting better or worse in a community and how quickly.

We looked at 237 urban centres across the country, calculating the difference between their most recent crime severity indexes—a measure used by Statistics Canada that accounts for the seriousness of crimes as well as their number—and their crime severity indexes five years ago. While crime has fallen across Canada as a whole over the past five years, the results show many communities have had a very different experience.

READ MORE: Our full ranking of Canada’s most dangerous places

Wetaskiwin, Alta., a town of 12,600 about an hour’s drive south of Edmonton, has the fastest-growing crime severity index in the country by a landslide. From 2012 to 2017, Wetaskiwin’s CSI increased 100.63 points to 257.54. For comparison, Red Deer, the community with the second-fastest growing CSI, saw an increase of 58.65 points over five years. Canada’s overall CSI fell 2.56 points to 72.87 over the same time period. Maclean’s reporter Aaron Hutchins went to Wetaskiwin to get the story behind the numbers—read his feature here.

Meanwhile, Estevan, Sask. had the fastest-dropping crime severity index in the country with a 58.54-point reduction. In 2012, the town of 12,000 two hours’ drive southeast of Regina was the 20th most dangerous place in Canada out of 237 communities we rank. Today, it’s the 91st most dangerous, with a CSI of 75.72—just three points higher than Canada’s overall.

Statistics Canada set the national crime severity index at a baseline of 100 in 2006. A CSI smaller than 100 means there were fewer and/or less severe crimes than those committed that year. A CSI greater than 100 means there were more and/or more severe crimes than those committed across the country in 2006.

The community with the highest overall CSI is North Battleford, Sask., which held the same dubious honour last year. The industrial and agricultural community’s crime severity index was 371.58 in 2017, 38 points higher than Thompson, Man., Canada’s second-most dangerous place.

North Battleford ranks high on the list for a broad range of crimes. It’s got Canada’s highest rate of youth crime, impaired driving and firearms offences, and the second highest rates of assault levels one and two, breaking and entering and robbery. Wetaskiwin was a distant third, with a crime severity index of 256 compared to Thompson’s 333.

Canada’s most dangerous places are concentrated in Western Canada. Out of 59 places with crime severity indexes in the top 25 per cent, 49 are in British Columbia or the Prairies.

Across the country, the crime severity index rose for the third consecutive year after 11 years of declines. According to Statistics Canada, one reason for that was a significant increase in sexual assaults reported to police in a year of widespread attention to the #MeToo movement.

The crime severity index was created in an effort to paint a more accurate picture of crime levels than the crime rate can. For example, a town that experienced a wave of vandalism and petty theft might have a higher crime rate than another town with more assaults and murders, even though the crimes committed in the second town were much more serious.

Data source/methodology: This report ranks communities according to Statistics Canada’s Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, a measure of all police-reported crime. The 2017 data is the most current available and was released July 23, 2018. Maclean’s compares annual crime data for police services categorized as municipal by Statistics Canada and covering populations of at least 10,000 people.

Some police forces cover more than one municipality, sometimes they cover only part of a municipality and sometimes police coverage areas overlap. Crime may not be evenly distributed throughout a police service’s coverage area. If a police service ranked by Maclean’s covers multiple municipalities or regions, we added “and area” to its name in the ranking tool.

For the crimes of assault and sexual assault, assault level 1 and sexual assault level 1 (the least serious levels) were used.

Our ranking of communities with the fastest-growing and shrinking crime is based on the difference between each area’s CSI in 2017 and 2012.

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