Manitoba

Southern Manitoba much safer than north, Statistics Canada's crime stats suggest

Country living is relatively crime-free in southern Manitoba — but a person's statistical odds of being a victim of crime in northern Manitoba are among the worst in Canada.

Rural-urban crime report reveals greater north-south divide in Manitoba

The rate of crime reported to police in northern Manitoba is much higher than in the southern part of the province, according to Statistics Canada figures. (Courtesy RCMP)

Country living is relatively crime-free in southern Manitoba — but a person's statistical odds of being a victim of crime in northern Manitoba are among the worst in Canada.

Northern Manitobans are victims of crime far more often than people in the south, a new report from Statistics Canada says.

The rural crime rate in Manitoba is 42 per cent higher than the urban crime rate, the report says — and that's driven by numbers in the north, where there are more than 31 crimes per 100 people reported to police in rural areas.

"It's just a few places that drive the crime rate in rural areas high, because most of the people living in rural areas actually live in a very safe place," said Samuel Perreault, the author of the report.

The Statistics Canada report looks at crimes reported to police in 2017 and divides those statistics into rural and urban crime. Manitoba's rural and urban police-reported crime rates are second worst in the country, with only Saskatchewan reporting higher numbers.

While the report looks at the rural-urban divide in Canada, it's more a north-south divide in Manitoba, where the one northern urban centre — Thompson — has a higher crime rate than rural northern Manitoba.

The police-reported crime rate in southern rural Manitoba is not quite six crimes per 100 people, while the province's urban crime rate is not quite eight crimes per 100 people.

The high rural crime rate in Manitoba is driven by offences in the northern part of the province. (Statistics Canada)

Crime is higher in the Prairies and in northern Canada, and a greater proportion of the rural population lives in the Prairies and the north, which is why the rural crime rate is higher than the urban crime rate, Perreault explained.

"These areas drive the rural crime rates, which is why overall we see a higher rural crime rate.

"However when we compare apples to apples — so when we compare the north to the north, the south to the south, or Prairies to Prairies — well, we see that in general, people residing in rural areas live in safer places."

The rural crime rate in southern Manitoba is much lower than in northern Manitoba. (Statistics Canada)

While the numbers look bad for northern Manitoba, the crime rate has decreased almost everywhere in the country since 2009. It's just decreased much more slowly in rural areas, the report says, which is making the difference between crime rates more pronounced. The crime rate has also crept upward again from 2014 to 2017.

Stats stacked against Thompson, former mayor says

The former mayor of Thompson said the statistics don't show the full picture of northern Manitoba's crime situation.

"On a per capita basis, if you have one murder in Thompson, Manitoba as opposed to one murder in Winnipeg, we get a higher rating because it's a smaller population," said Dennis Fenske.

"So the stats are skewed in that way."

Thompson is 653 kilometres north of Winnipeg and home to nearly 13,000 people.

Dennis Fenske, the former mayor of Thompson, said the statistics don't show the full picture, but he's hopeful the new report from Statistics Canada will back up what northern communities have been saying for years. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Fenske lived in the northern city for decades and said he's not surprised to hear northern Manitoba ranks where it does.

"When you're immersed in a resource based area, there are higher wages and there's also lots of poverty. And the two extremes can't coexist."

"I won't be surprised by the Crime Severity Index that comes out in July has Thompson in the top five. That's the way it is," he said.

"But these stats and reports will help the lobbying effort, to change people's minds, that you can't police yourself out of this. You need to put preventative measures in things like addictions, mental health... and poverty."

Country living is relatively crime-free in southern Manitoba — but a person's statistical odds of being a victim of crime in northern Manitoba are among the worst in Canada. 1:52

With files from Marina von Stackelberg

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