What are police doing about Regina's rising crime rate?

Regina is once again leading the country for highest crime rate thanks to an increase in gun crimes and attempted murders.

Gun crimes up 233%; attempted murders up 155%

Regina police are fighting crime in the country's most statistically dangerous city. (Alec Salloum/CBC)

Regina is once again leading the country as the city with the highest crime rate.

Gun crimes and attempted murder helped position the Prairie city on the top of the per capita list released by Statistics Canada.

Regina's 2016 rate was 9,253 reported crimes per 100,000 people, whereas Saskatoon's rate was 8,942 per 100,000.

Regina and Saskatoon have been in the one and two position since 2010.

In 2016, Regina's crime rate went up more than 11 per cent, with violent crime up by more than seven per cent.

Firearms incidents jumped by 233 per cent in the Saskatchewan capital, up from 17 in 2015 to 58 in 2016.

Statistics Canada also reports something called the "crime severity index." It measures the volume of crimes, but also factors in severity, so that, for example, attempted murder charges are ranked higher than mischief charges.

Canada-wide, the crime severity index was 71 in 2016. Regina's was 125.6 (the highest of 33 communities) while Saskatoon's was 117.8 (the second-highest).

Regina police Chief Evan Bray said he's not happy to see the statistics, but he's also not surprised.

"No one wants to be number one when it comes to this," he told CBC on Monday.

Gun use shoots up

Bray said he is most concerned about the increase in violent crimes, including attempted murder and the use of firearms.

According to Bray, the presence of guns increases the severity of many crimes in the city, turning many assaults into attempted murders. From 2015 to 2016, the number of attempted murders in the city increased by 155 per cent.

"Any time, obviously, a firearm is used, that adds a lot of weighting to that crime. That really is, I think, what tipped the scales for us this year," he said.

Crimes involving guns are about 850 per cent higher in Regina now than the average over the past 10 years. The use of firearms was 233 per cent higher in 2016 than in 2015.

During the last gun amnesty period in Regina, which gave residents two weeks to turn in unwanted and unused firearms, 150 guns were surrendered to police.

According to Bray, the service is targeting gang activity — including drug and gun crimes — which he said drive crime in Regina and the province as a whole.

"We don't necessarily see an immediate change but over time we start to see a healthier community as a result of targeting some of those root issues," he said.

RPS also has a number of community partnerships to help those facing mental health problems, addictions and abuse. The service also works to help at-risk youth and others whom officers consider vulnerable to being victimized or becoming offenders.  

"If we can deal with the root goes a long way to being able to suppress crime in our city."

In the numbers

Child pornography offences jumped in Regina in 2016. After two years of declining numbers, there were 29 child pornography incidents, a 41 per cent increase over the 20 incidents in 2015. There were also 16 incidents of making or distribution of child pornography in Regina during the same time.

From 2015 to 2016, 20 of 33 of Canada's metropolises reported increases in their crime severity index. Regina had the second highest increase, next to Winnipeg, at 15 per cent. According to StatsCan, this was due to more incidents of fraud and attempted murder.

Second to Thunder Bay, Edmonton and Regina tied for next-highest homicide rates per capita, with Regina recording a total of eight in 2016.

Increases in total fraud were reported by 28 of 33 metropolises. Regina had the second highest increase at 42 per cent. The increases are partly attributable to more police-reported Canada Revenue Agency scams and a possible increased awareness of cyber crime in general.

With files from Charles Hamilton