Canada's crime rate is the lowest in nearly 40 years, according to Statistics Canada, as the volume of crime dropped five per cent in 2010 from the year before.

"The national crime rate has been falling steadily for the past 20 years and is now at its lowest level since 1973," Statistics Canada reported.

The agency said that Canadian police services reported nearly 2.1 million Criminal Code incidents  in 2010, about 77,000 fewer than in 2009. The police-reported crime rate measures the overall volume of crime.

The Crime Severity Index, which measures the severity of crime, also fell six per cent and reached its lowest point (82.7) since 1998.

Police reported just over 437,000 violent incidents in 2010, about 7,200 fewer than in the previous year.

Fewer homicides

Homicides dropped by 10 per cent from 2009 to 2010 with the national rate of 1.62 homicides per 100,000 population the lowest since 1966. This decline was led by the decrease in British Columbia's homicide rate.

Attempted murders were also down from 2009,  as were break-ins, motor vehicle theft, serious assaults, robbery and impaired driving.

But police reported an increase in sexual assaults, firearm-related offences, child pornography and drug offences.

Other findings:

  • Alberta and British Columbia reported the largest declines in crime in 2010, with the crime rate falling by six per cent in both provinces.
  • Nunavut and the Northwest Territories continued to report the highest Crime Severity Index values. Among the provinces, Saskatchewan reported the highest Crime Severity Index, followed by Manitoba and British Columbia. The lowest Crime Severity Index values were seen in Ontario, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
  • St. John's had the largest increase in crime severity
  •  Regina reported the highest Crime Severity Index, followed by Saskatoon and Winnipeg.

Tough-on-crime agenda questioned

Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd said the figures undermine  the federal Conservative's tough-on-crime agenda.

"They want to spend billions of dollars building prisons, saying that there is a real problem with crime. The truth of the matter, through police reported data and victimization surveys, is that crime is down — not up," said Boyd.

"Spending billions of dollars on prisons isn't going to make our communities any more safe," he said.