Violent crimes in Calgary increase slightly in 2013
Upsurge in homicides a driving factor in higher violent crime severity index, says Statistics Canada
Statistics Canada says the volume and severity of crimes in Canada is decreasing, and has been for the last decade.
Crime rates continue to fall in Calgary as well, but sexual violations against children, homicides, assaults and sexual assaults in the city all increased slightly in 2013.
Carl DeSantis, a program co-ordinator at Bow Valley College's Justice Studies program, says it's important to keep the big picture in mind.
"You can't rely only on statistical information," said the 29-year veteran of the Calgary police.
"There is a number of other factors that you got to consider, and at the top would be the rapid growth that Calgary has seen in population, When I first joined the police service, population was just hovering around a half a million."
The City of Calgary just released its census data. The city's population is now just under 1.2 million.
"We are a big city. We are a significantly large city now and with that comes big city problems," said DeSantis.
"Overall Calgary is a very, very safe city."
19 homicides already in 2014
The Calgary area saw 24 homicides last year, an increase of five from the year before. Statistics Canada says that is leading to a higher violent crime severity index — or CSI. It increased one per cent between 2012 and 2013.
And there have already been 19 homicides in 2014 — many of which are high profile cases that have shocked the community.
- Douglas Garland charged with murder of Nathan O'Brien, Kathy and Alvin Liknes
- Matthew de Grood, Calgary stabbings accused, to undergo more psychiatric tests
"There is no explanation for it, certainly in this case there are no trends — half of the homicides that happened this year were in two incidents," said Calgary police spokesperson Kevin Brookwell.
Roughly 65 per cent of the homicides were declared stabbings, meaning a death with a edged weapon of some kind.
"It's a weapon of opportunity and easy to conceal," said Brookwell.
He said Calgary police are concerned, but it's difficult because it is impossible to regulate everyday devices like scissors or kitchen knives.
Brookwell says Calgary is still well below the national average on many crimes and non-violent offences, like arrests for drug trafficking and break and enters, have decreased.
"We are pleased to continue to see the downward trend," he said.
"Certainly lower than other jurisdictions in Alberta and Western Canada."
Online luring offences jump
The Statistics Canada report says one of the biggest increases seen across Canada is sexual violations against children, and luring a child via a computer showed the greatest increase.
Det. Dean Jacobs has seen that firsthand in Calgary. Online his name is Monica — a 14-year-old girl. It's a persona Jacobs adopts in his bid to catch child sex offenders.
He works one of many Integrated Child Exploitation (ICE) units across Canada. Today he is chatting with a 44-year-old man from Sweden, who reveals he has a daughter the same age as Monica.
"He is saying she looks great in a skirt, she looks basically sexy in a skirt," he said.
"How do I know he's not abusing her," he said.
More policing of online predators
One criminologist says the spike in reports of online luring is the direct result of more policing.
"Investigations have come a long way since that infamous 'swirly face' case back in 2008," said Robert Gordon.
"Police managed to unscramble the swirl and convict Canadian Christoper Neil of sexual abuse in Thailand."
There have been other high profile arrests too, and an increased public awareness of sexual predators on the internet.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection says it gets 30,000 tips a year. Still, centre director Lianna McDonald is concerned there is a lot more.
"Most children don't tell and so we do believe these numbers that we are using and came out of the report today much lower than incidents that are actually occurring," said McDonald.
Police says awareness has lead to increased reporting, but they've changed tacks too.
"We're no longer to the point we have to wait for the victim or a guardian of the victim to come forward and tell us an offence occurred, we're actively out on the internet looking for offenders," said Staff Sgt. John Guigon of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT).
Below are the crime statistics for the Calgary Metropolitan Area. On mobile? Click here.
With files from Carolyn Dunn/CBC and Rachel Maclean/CBC