Saskatchewan reports less crime, highest homicide rates in 2020

Saskatoon was ranked fourth among 35 cities for crime severity, despite a reduction in crime rates.

Saskatoon ranked sixth in crime rates and fourth in severity: Statistics Canada

Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper says that crime reduction is a success story for the city. (CBC News)

Saskatoon had less police-reported crime in 2020, but it still ranks among the top 10 for crime rates and top five on the violent crime severity index, according to new statistics.

Statistics Canada released the crime statistics for 2020 on Tuesday, reporting that the volume of police-reported crime was substantially lower than 2019 largely due to less activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. It reported a 10 per cent nation-wide drop in police reported-crime in 2020. 

The report shows the change in crime rates, calculated by the amount of crimes committed for every 100,000 people, and the crime severity index, which determines the severity of crimes based on conviction rates and length of sentencing.

Statistics Canada said that there was an 11 per cent decrease in crime rates in Saskatoon in 2020 from the previous year.

"This is a success story for us. We've seen ourselves drop to number four [in violent crime severity] in large centres behind other cities I think that other people recognize are safe," said Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper. 

"It's not a matter of whether or not Saskatoon is safe, it's just a matter of looking at those numbers and seeing how crime relates to our day-to-day lives."

Saskatoon ranked sixth in crime rates of the census metropolitan areas being tracked and fourth in crime severity. 

Regina had the largest drop in the country with a 23 per cent reduction in reported crime.

Saskatchewan had highest rates of homicide 

Across the province there were fewer reports of robbery, sexual assault, breaking and entering and shoplifting, but an increase in assault, impaired driving and homicide. 

Saskatchewan had the highest rates of homicide — more than five homicides per 100,000 people — among all provinces. But Regina and Saskatoon both recorded a decrease in homicides. And while most provinces and territories reported less impaired driving, Saskatchewan had an 11 per cent increase in 2020. 

Saskatchewan has the highest crime rate and ranks highest on the crime severity index. 

Despite less overall crime in the country, there were 201 Indigenous victims of homicide in 2020, which is 22 more than the previous year. Indigenous people are victims of homicide at a rate seven times higher than non-Indigenous people.

The report also said there were 2,669 police-reported hate crimes — the highest number since data was available in 2009.

Statistics miss roots of crime 

James Gacek, a justice studies professor at the University of Regina, said that while useful, these numbers don't convey the issues that lead to crime. 

"These numbers are only a fraction of the story" he said on CBC's Saskatoon Morning

"It doesn't give us the whole picture of why individuals commit crime or engage in criminal activity."

LISTEN | James Gacek spoke with host Heather Morrison on Saskatoon Morning 

He said race plays into the decision to arrest or charge an offender, and into the overall criminal justice system. 

Various societal issues play a part in crime rates. 

"Racism and racialization certainly play into that but … there's also issues of poverty, mental health, intergenerational trauma. You know, the list goes on, unfortunately, for these vulnerable groups so it's just something that we have to speak to, as well," he said