Regina area reports country's largest decreases in crime rate and crime severity index in 2020

Police-reported crime took a downturn in 2020 around the country and especially in the Regina area.

Sask. has highest crime rate, crime severity index among provinces despite a decrease in both

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said the decrease in police-reported crime is promising news, but that drugs, addition and overdoses continue to be a problem. (CBC News)

Police-reported crime took a downturn in 2020 around the country and especially in the Regina area.

A report from Statistics Canada credits the pandemic for the decreases, because many people were staying at home for long periods of time, and avoiding public gatherings and businesses.

The report shows the crime rate and crime severity index (CSI) dropped in Canada from 2019 to 2020. Crime rate is determined by the amount of crimes committed for every 100,000 people, while CSI focuses more on the severity of a crime based on conviction rates and lengths of sentences.

After five years of increases in police-reported crime in Canada, there was a 10 per cent decrease in the crime rate and eight per cent drop in CSI.

However, the report also said the rate of homicide for Indigenous peoples in Canada rose in 2020 and was seven times higher than for non-Indigenous peoples.

In 2020, there were 201 Indigenous victims of homicide, an increase from 179 in 2019.

Regina sees largest decreases

Saskatchewan saw a seven per cent decrease in crime rate and six per cent drop in CSI. However, Saskatchewan has the highest crime rate and CSI out of all provinces.

Regina's census metropolitan area, which covers Regina and surrounding communities, had the largest decrease in crime rate and CSI out of the 35 census metropolitan areas that were tracked.

The crime rate decreased by 27 per cent and the CSI went down by 20 per cent.

The Regina area now has the seventh highest crime rate and fifth highest CSI of the 35 areas tracked.

The most notable decreases in Regina were vehicle thefts, property crimes, and break and enters. Vehicle thefts were down 43 per cent, property crime decreased by 34 per cent, and break and enters dropped by 24 per cent.

"I feel like this … is a good news story, but I always put the caveat on it that we are still talking about crime. Each crime is victimization and victimization is something that's very hard on a community," said Regina Police Chief Evan Bray after the report was released.

'Drugs were a big problem in 2020'

Although most types of crimes saw a decrease, drug-related crimes saw an 11 per cent increase in Regina.

"Drugs were a big problem in 2020," said Bray, noting that addictions and drug overdoses continue to be an ongoing concern.

"Our overdoses were at an all time high. We ended the year with 1,200 overdoses in the year, approximately 10 per cent of those were fatal … that's a serious number."

He said police investigations have been focusing on people who bring drugs into the city, and have been successful in getting drugs off of the streets, but there also needs to be an emphasis on harm reduction and education to help people with addictions.

"When it comes to the drug world, we know that enforcement is part of it, absolutely," he said.

"We have to disrupt these illicit substances coming into the community, but sounding like a broken record, we have to help people that have an addiction because the addiction is a health problem. It's not one that handcuffs are going to solve."

The Saskatoon census metropolitan area, meanwhile, saw an 11 per cent drop in crime rate and 10 percent decrease in CSI, meaning Saskatoon has the sixth highest crime rate and fourth highest CSI.

Increased hate crimes in Canada

The report said there was a 37 per cent increase in police-reported hate crimes in Canada.

There were 2,669 police-reported hate crimes in 2020, according to the report, the largest number recorded since comparable data became available in 2009.

Bray said police don't have evidence to support the notion that hate crimes are on the rise in Regina, but officers are "very aware" of them and are always trying to determine whether an incident was motivated by hate.

"We saw certainly a real hypersensitivity to the notion of hate crime in our community, given the fact that we know there was hate crime that happened elsewhere in Canada and in the United States last year," he said.

"I think what's important is just that heightened awareness and sensitivity."