A recent optimistic outlook on 2010 violent crime stats in Canada has one Edmonton criminologist dubious about the reliability of that data.
Bill Pitt, a criminologist at Grant MacEwan University, dismissed findings released this week by Statistics Canada showing a 6-per cent drop in violent and non-violent crime nationally, as well as a 12 per cent drop in Edmonton's violent crime last year.
In spite of how those figures appear, he said, the unfortunate truth is the numbers ignore all incidences of crimes that went unreported to police — a potentially big problem in Edmonton.
"I wouldn't put a whole lot of stock in this stuff," Pitt said. "Especially when you start looking at the numbers that are coming out of people who are not reporting their crimes. Basically, they have no faith in the police, or they have no faith in the criminal justice system."
'Horrifying' murder rate
Only homicide numbers are relevant, according to Pitt. And that could be bad news for Edmonton, a city with a murder rate described last May as "horrifying" by Liberal critic Hugh MacDonald.
There have been 29 homicides so far this year in Edmonton, compared with three in Calgary. The homicide rates in Edmonton have exceeded the 2009 and 2010 figures.
"It's a sad commentary to make, but we're dealing with a whole lot of homicides in this city," Pitt said. "And as far as national statistics are concerned, they almost don't relate to this city."
Pitt blamed the high murder rate partly on easy access to alcohol, as well as a culture of carrying weapons.
Lowest crime rate since 1979
The Statistics Canada report on 2010 crime levels, released Thursday, showed Canada's crime rate as being the lowest in nearly four decades.
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.
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.
Alberta and British Columbia reported the largest declines in crime in 2010, with the crime rate falling by six per cent in both provinces.