Edmonton has the highest homicide rate among major Canadian cities, according to statistics released Wednesday.

The greater Edmonton area saw44 murders in 2005, more than double the average rate per 100,000 people across the country, according to a report by Statistics Canada.

Keith Spencer, a former criminology professor at the University of Alberta, said in times of economic prosperity, discretionary money brings problems.

"Particularly attracted here are drug dealers and drug gangs. They come to service a population that has extra spending money. As a consequence, this whole new business side or crime side grows along with the rest of the economy," he said.

Calgary, which has also experienced an economic boom, had the fourth highest homicide rate in Canada among major cities, with 26 victims in 2005.

A jump in gang-related killings increased the national homicide rate in 2005 to its highest point in nearly a decade.

But a revision to the survey may account for the increase because the survey included homicides in which gang-related activity was "suspected" by police and not just "determined."

As long as Edmonton's economy continues to grow and the city's demographic skews younger, Spencer said he can't see the homicide rate decreasing.

So far in 2006, police report 32 homicides in Edmonton, including the death of three people after a shooting in a night club on Oct. 29.

A 22-year-old made has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder.