EAST CENTRAL — Rural crime rates in Saskatchewan are the highest in the country, according to a Statistics Canada report.
The report, released May 7, said in 2017 the crime rate in rural Saskatchewan was 13,829 per 100,000 population. The national average was 6,210 per 100,000.
Saskatchewan’s rural north had the highest crime rate, at 59,574 per 100,000. The rural south had a rate of 9,053 per 100,000, and Regina and Saskatoon combined had a crime rate of 10,138 per 100,000.
Nicole Sarauer, the Saskatchewan NDP’s policing critic, said during question period May 8 that police forces have been pointing to the spike in meth use and the drug trade as a driver of crime for years. According to the report, drug offenses have gone up 22 per cent in rural Saskatchewan since 2009.
“But instead of a multi-pronged crime strategy to address the root causes of crime – poverty, homelessness, employment, housing, and substance abuse – this government’s crime strategy focuses exclusively on enforcement,” she said.
Sarauer then called on the Saskatchewan Party government to create a crystal meth strategy, create a comprehensive gang strategy and provide better reintegration supports for people leaving jails to help prevent them from offending again.
Christine Tell, the policing minister, said rural crime is something the government takes seriously and they’ve taken action with the creation of protection and response teams, as well as the expansion of combined traffic safety initiatives, community safety officers and rural crime watch programs.
“Of course, our ministry is involved in more levels than just enforcement,” she said, pointing to a northern alcohol strategy, a youth violence reduction partnership to discourage youth living in northern communities from joining gangs, and the hub tables across the province that connect multiple agencies together to support high-risk people before they turn to crime.
“We take crime in this province very seriously and we will continue to ensure that our initiatives are based on evidence and looking for the outcomes,” Tell said.
The report emphasized that crime rates have gone down across the country, but that decrease has been slower in rural areas. Since 2009, crime rates have deceased only three per cent in rural Saskatchewan. Violent crime went down six per cent, while property crime went down seven per cent.
The most popular crimes in rural Saskatchewan are mischief, with a rate of 3,894 per 100,000; level one assault – the type that causes little to no physical harm – at 1,502 per 100,000; failing to comply with a court order, at 1,219 per 100,000; disturbing the peace, at 1,090 per 100,000; theft under $5,000, at 1,071 per 100,000; alcohol-impaired driving, at 908 per 100,000; and breaking and entering, at 862 per 100,000.