Winnipeg leads nation in violent crime rate

Winnipeg is once again the homicide capital among large Canadian cities.

Winnipeg is once again the homicide capital among large Canadian cities, while Manitoba tops all provinces.

The city, which has repeatedly ranked first in that category in past years for cities with more than 200,000 people, had the highest homicide rate again in 2009, according to Statistics Canada.

Mayor Sam Katz said the city and its police force are doing everything possible to combat the rise of violent crime.

"No one's saying its a good situation [but] by the same token, you have to try and ask yourself, 'what can they do to address a random shooting or a random stabbing or some violence in the home where people know each other?'' he said.

"What is it that you'd like them to do?"

Sociologists point to inner-city poverty in Winnipeg that leads teens to get into trouble. There is also a strong gang presence.

"None of us has managed to hit on the recipe for the silver bullet that is going to make these (numbers) go down," said Marc Pellerin, vice-president of the Winnipeg Police Association, the union that represents front-line officers.

"The criminal element here in Winnipeg is getting indoctrinated at a very young age, and if the habit is created at the age of 10, 11 or 12, it's going to be a long, hard road trying to get it turned around."

Crime decreased across country

Statistics Canada on Tuesday released its annual statistics on police-reported crime across the country.

Overall, the volume and severity of crime reported to police declined for the sixth consecutive year.

Nearly 2.2 million crimes were reported to police in 2009, about 43,000 fewer than in 2008. And there were about 77,000 fewer reported crimes in 2008 compared to 2007.

However, some violent crimes did increase. There were 806 attempted murders in Canada in 2009, 85 more than in 2008.

Increases were also reported in the rate of extortion, firearms offences and criminal harassment.

There were 610 homicides in 2009, about the same as the previous year. The homicide rate has been relatively stable for the past decade and well below the peak during the mid-1970s.

Winnipeg's rate of 4.1 slayings per 100,000 residents was the highest homicide rate in 2009 among major cities. The city also placed first for robberies and vehicle thefts, and notched the third-highest rate of break-and-enters behind Regina and Saskatoon.

Youth crime rates, which Statistics Canada tracks by province instead of city, were highest in Manitoba for homicides, serious assaults and robbery.

It is the third consecutive year Manitoba's homicide rate has topped the list.

As a whole, the crime severity index (CSI), which measures the seriousness of incidents reported to police, declined four per cent last year and was down 22 per cent from 1999, Statistics Canada said.

The drop was consistent across the country, with only Manitoba and Nunavut reporting increases.

Abbotsford, British Columbia, had the highest rate among smaller centers.