Has Yellowknife become 'a harder place to live?' 2 crime victims think so

Shiloh Frost was walking home late last Friday night in the Northlands trailer park when he was punched in the face without warning.

'When this happened I sat down and thought, 'When am I going to get out?''

Shiloh Foster said he was attacked without provocation while walking home in Yellowknife. (Submitted by Jessica Mason)

Shiloh Frost was walking home late last Friday night in the Northlands trailer park when he was punched in the face without warning.

"Next thing I know I'm on the ground and I'm picking myself up and getting away from this person," Frost said.

He reported the incident to the police, but hasn't heard anything about the person that struck him.

Frost says that he's been in Yellowknife for a total of 15 years, and lately the city "seems like a harder place to live."

While Frost's experience was undeniably unpleasant, the overall rate for those kinds of assaults have remained relatively stable in the N.W.T. for the past 18 years (the range of N.W.T. data available).

Level one assaults — Frost's alleged assault would be in this category — are assaults that don't involve a weapon and cause little physical harm.

According to Statistics Canada, the rate of level one assaults per 100,000 people was 4,371 in the N.W.T. in 2016. That's not far off the average annual rate since 1999 of 4,433 per 100,000 people.

That crime rate still remains more than 10 times the national rate of 431 per 100,000 people.

Frost's experience has him questioning whether or not he wants to keep living in Yellowknife.

"When this happened I sat down and thought, 'When am I going to get out?'"

Petty crime and expensive nuisance

He's not the only one that's frustrated with crime in the city.

Justine Ollerhead, 28, has lived in Yellowknife her whole life. But she said she's noticed a change in the city. "I remember being in Grade 6 and being able to go to the mall by myself," she said. "Now I don't even like walking through there by myself and I'm a grown woman."

Justine Ollerhead had her car windshield smashed in outside her downtown Yellowknife apartment recently. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Someone smashed the front windshield of Ollerhead's car on Saturday. The car was parked downtown outside her apartment building. The damage to the window is so extensive that she can't drive the car, and it will cost her $500 to get it fixed.

"It's just ridiculous," she said. "The downtown core should not be like that."

Councillor Adrian Bell said he hasn't noticed an increase in the number of constituents bringing issues to his attention.

But, he said, he sees a problem in the downtown area, "and it needs to be addressed."

These kinds of infuriating, but petty, crimes are considered crimes of mischief. According to Statistics Canada, the rate of mischief in 2016 was more than 16,695 per 100,000 people. On average, the rate of crimes of mischief per 100,000 in the N.W.T. since 1999 has been 14,248.  

The national rate in 2016 was just 717 incidents per 100,000 people.

Bell said a greater authoritative presence downtown might help deal with what he describes as "nuisance crime" — people behaving aggressive and/or acting out while intoxicated in the downtown area.

He said this tactic has worked recently at the library.

"Recently with municipal enforcement we've had a lot of success in reducing those nuisance, aggressive behaviour situations simply by sending our municipal enforcement officers into the library, proactively, on a random basis about a couple times a day."


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