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Crime rates higher in rural Canada — especially on the Prairies, StatsCan says

The crime rate in rural Alberta is 38 per cent higher than it is in urban areas, according to a report released Tuesday by Statistics Canada.

Alberta bucks national trend with higher rates in southern part of province

Rural crime rates are especially higher than urban crime rates in the Prairies, says Statistics Canada. (Helen Pike/CBC)

The crime rate is 38 per cent higher in rural Alberta than it is in urban areas, according to a report released Tuesday by Statistics Canada.

The police-reported crime rate in rural parts of Alberta was 10,964 per 100,000 people in 2017. In urban areas of Alberta, the rate was 7,920 per 100,000. 

"Higher crime rates in rural areas were mainly observed in the Prairie provinces," said the report, Police-Reported Crime in Rural and Urban Areas in the Canadian Provinces, 2017.

"In the Prairie provinces in 2017, rates in rural areas were 36 per cent to 42 per cent higher than in urban areas."

The police-reported crime rate in rural parts of Alberta was 10,964 per 100,000 people in 2017. In urban areas of Alberta the rate was 7,920 per 100,000, according to StatsCan. (Statistics Canada)

Nationally, the rural crime rate was 23 per cent higher than the rate reported by urban police services. The data excludes traffic offences.

The report found that Alberta is an outlier in terms of where in the province rural crime is most prevalent, the data revealed.

Overall, crime rates were three times higher in rural areas in the northern parts of the provinces than in the southern parts, especially in Saskatchewan.

This trend was observed in all provinces except Alberta, where the rural crime rate was higher in the southern parts of the province.

The territories were excluded from the analysis.

The report notes that the crime rates in rural areas is actually driven by a small number of police districts that report very high crime rates.

"In fact, most police services serving a predominantly rural population recorded relatively low rates of crime," the report says.

The higher crime rates in rural areas are mainly accounted for in high rates of physical assault, mischief and disturbing the peace — offences that were reported about twice as often by police serving a mostly rural population.

Overall rates down

Despite the growing gap between the rural and urban crime rates, both have fallen over the past 10 years.

In rural areas, the crime rate has dropped by 13 per cent, and in urban areas it is 19 per cent lower than it was in 2009.

The report says the rates for homicides and several other violent crimes — such as firearms offences, aggravated assault and sexual crimes against children — were much higher in rural areas than in urban settings.

The rate of impaired driving was also about twice as high in rural areas as it was in urban areas.

"The gap was even wider for incidents of impaired driving causing bodily harm or death," the report says.

"Conversely, more robberies and offences related to human trafficking or the commodification of sexual activity were reported in urban areas."