Calgary had a lot more shoplifting but a lot fewer homicides last year

A surge in shoplifting in Alberta helped nudge the national crime severity index upward, but it didn’t have a similar effect on the provincial index, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada.

City's crime severity index rose 5% in 2018 while provincial rating remains steady

There was a 22 per cent spike in the rate of shoplifting over the decade from 2008 to 2018 in Alberta, Statistics Canada says. (SpeedKingz/Shutterstock)

A surge in shoplifting in Calgary — part of a trend across the province and even country — helped push up the city's crime rate last year despite a plunge in some other offences, Statistics Canada says.

Provincewide, the incidence of shoplifting — including both below and above $5,000 — climbed by 23 per cent in a year, from 17,673 total incidents in 2017 to 21,802 in 2018, according to a Statistics Canada calculation released Monday.  Called the Crime Severity Index, it measures the volume and severity of police-reported crimes.

In the five years since 2014, when oil prices bottomed out and sent the provincial economy into a recession, the incidents of shoplifting have soared by 82 per cent, according to the CSI.

In Calgary, the number of shoplifting incidents has risen steadily, by 62 per cent, from 3,715 incidents in 2014 to 6,012 in 2018.

Since 2017 alone, they jumped 30 per cent.

In Calgary, the increase helped elevated the crime severity index by five per cent from 2017 to 2018.

The city's crime rate was 6,176 per 100,000. That's up nine per cent from 2017.

However, the city saw considerably fewer homicides than in the previous years.

The number of homicides in Calgary dropped from 29 in 2017 to 18 in 2018 — the lowest in at least five years. 

That mirrored a broader decline provincewide.

There were 32 per cent fewer homicides reported in Alberta, dropping from 119 in 2017 to 81 in 2018.

Provincewide, both the crime severity index and the overall crime rate were unchanged year over year to 2018 as other categories of crime saw steep declines.

Shoplifting jumps by 42% nationally

Alberta's uptick in shoplifting, along with similar spikes in Manitoba and Ontario, also combined to push up the national crime severity index, Statistics Canada said.

Nationally, compared with 2008, the rate of shoplifting in 2018 was up 42 per cent, while other types of theft of property worth $5,000 or under decreased 23 per cent.

The agency said the overall crime rate was up two per cent over last year, with over two million incidents reported by police in 2018. That works out to a rate of 5,488 incidents per 100,000 people.

The severity of crime also rose by two per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

However, Statistics Canada noted both the rate and severity of crime were still substantially lower than they were a decade ago, both down 17 per cent since 2008.

The crime rate in Canada peaked in 1991 and has been in dramatic decline since then, falling by more than 50 per cent until 2014. Since 2014, however, the rate is up just over eight per cent. Most of the movement in the crime rate is the result of changes in non-violent crime.

The increase in the severity of crime from 2017 to 2018 was driven largely by higher rates of fraud, shoplifting and other thefts, the agency said.

But while violent crime overall increased, the homicide rate reversed an upward trend over the last few years by declining by four per cent in 2018.

With files from The Canadian Press


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