Regina, Saskatoon have some of the highest crime severity numbers in the country

Saskatchewan's two major cities continue to have some of the highest crime severity numbers in the country.

Meth is fueling auto thefts, break and enters: Regina police chief

In 2018, Regina had the second-highest crime severity index and Saskatoon was fourth, according to a new report from Statistics Canada. (Don Somers/CBC News) (Creeden Martell/CBC)

Saskatchewan's two major cities continue to have some of the highest crime severity numbers in the country.

Statistics Canada released police reported crime statistics for 2018 on Monday.

Regina had the second-highest crime severity index (CSI) in the country behind only Lethbridge, Alta.

Winnipeg is third, followed by Saskatoon, which topped the list in 2017.

The report looked at 35 census metropolitan areas with a population of more than 100,000. CSI is calculated using the crime rate and the severity of those crimes.

Saskatoon's CSI number did not change year-to-year, while the three cities ahead of it each increased.

Saskatoon and Regina were first and third respectively in the 2017 crime severity report. (Thomas Kelley / Tintaggon)

Meanwhile, the crime rate in Saskatoon remained mostly stable with 8,795 criminal code incidents per 100,000 in 2018 compared to 8,694 per 100,000 in 2017.

Regina saw a jump in the crime rate to 9,521 incidents per 100,000 in 2018 from 8,681 incidents per 100,000 in 2017.

2018 top five cities with the highest CSI:

  • Lethbridge (137).
  • Regina (126.6).
  • Winnipeg (119.4).
  • Saskatoon (118).
  • Kelowna (100.7).

2017 top five cities with the highest CSI:

  • Saskatoon (115).
  • Edmonton (112.3).
  • Regina (111.9).
  • Winnipeg (106.9).
  • Kelowna (98.2).

Lethbridge was added to the list of cities in 2018. Had it been on the 2017 list, it would have been in first place with a CSI of 127.

Meth fueling crime

One reason for Regina's CSI increase was the number of break and enters, which jumped about 27 per cent from 1,696 incidents in 2017 to 2,156 last year.

While drug violations were down overall, Methamphetamine-related crimes continued to climb across the country. In Regina, there were 106 methamphetamine-related incidents reported in 2018 compared to just seven in 2014, an increase of more than 1,400 per cent, the report said.

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray says addressing underlying social issues will help reduce crime. (CBC)

There were almost 600 more auto thefts in Regina last year (1,626) than in 2017 (1,045).

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said guns, gangs and drugs make for a toxic mix that is fuelling that type of crime.

"Meth is driving a lot of the crime in our community," Bray said. 

He said drugs like fentanyl get a lot of attention because of the potential for accidental overdoses, but that meth makes people more unpredictable.

"Meth is causing people to act irrationally, stay up for hours, be paranoid, commit criminal offences," said Bray.

He used car thefts as an example, saying they used to be committed predominantly by teens, but that males between the ages of 25 and 40 are now the most common culprits.

Saskatoon had 249 meth incidents reported in 2018, a 500 per cent increase from 2014.

The report said police services suspect the rise in meth use is contributing to an uptick in other types of crime, including property and violent crimes.

There were 13,603 meth-related offences in Canada in 2018. That's a year-over-year increase of 13 per cent and continues an upward trend that started in 2008. 

Possession of meth had the second highest drug incident rate (28 per 100,000 population), after possession of cannabis. Meth offences accounted for 16 per cent of all police-reported drug crime in 2018.

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said he was not surprised by Regina's dismal statistics in the report, but that Regina is a safe city.

Fougere said that while there has been a spike this year in some categories, crime numbers have been trending downward over the last 10 years.

"When you have guns and gangs and drugs on the street — and we've seen that trend for quite some time — it's a challenge," Fougere said. "That's reflected not just in Regina but right across the country as well."

Bray said the public is starting to understand that underlying social issues like drug addictions are major factors when it comes to crime.

"Why are people stealing cars? Why is this happening? They're stealing cars ... to feed an addiction," Bray said. "Let's solve the addiction because if we can do that then everything else trickles down."

Officers reconstructing a crime scene in Saskatoon (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

National homicide rate higher than last decade

Violent crimes were down slightly in Saskatoon as were robberies and stolen vehicles, but sexual assaults were up.

The report said Saskatoon had eight homicides in 2018. Saskatoon police said that number is now 13 after some deaths attributed to overdoses were reclassified as homicides. In 2017 there were five.

Regina had five homicides in 2018 compared to nine in 2017.Overall Saskatchewan's CSI fell three per cent year-over-year.

The report said there were 34 homicides in Saskatchewan last year, four less than 2017 and 20 fewer than in 2016.

Canada's homicide rate declined four per cent in 2018, from 1.82 to 1.76 homicides per 100,000 population. Police reported 651 homicides in Canada in 2018, 15 fewer than the previous year. The homicide rate is still higher than the Canadian average the previous decade.

More than one in five victims of homicide were Indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples account for just five per cent of Canada's population in 2018, but 22 per cent of homicide victims.