Police respond as Lethbridge posts third largest increase on CSI

By Geoff Smith (@GeoffSmithLNN on Twitter)
November 6, 2018 - 1:20pm Updated: November 6, 2018 - 8:06pm

LETHBRIDGE – A new crime-ranking methodology by a national publication places Lethbridge in a dubious position.

The Maclean’s Most Dangerous Places ranking for 2019 placed Lethbridge third in all of Canada, behind only Wetaskiwin and Red Deer. Rather than base the ranking on the annual Crime Severity Index (CSI), on which Lethbridge was 19th overall and 39th in violent crime, the magazine ranked the cities based on the difference between 2012 and 2017 to determine if crime was getting better or worse.

That calculation produced a 52.8-point jump for Lethbridge, the third highest. Prince Albert, Sask. and Thompson, Man. were fourth and fifth. Seven of the top ten cities were in Alberta.

Lethbridge Police Sgt. Bruce Hagel said it’s an obvious concern but pointed out how much the numbers can swing in a smaller community, citing as an example a triple-homicide in 2015. He also pointed to a big increase in trafficking of drugs other than cocaine and marijuana.

“We saw an increase in usage in fentanyl, and fentanyl on the streets, and carfentanil,” he said. “And so the concerns that we have have come about in the last number of years. And along with that kind of drug use, you see increase in property crime, vehicle break-ins, garage break-ins to feed those drug habits.”

He wouldn’t say if he thinks it’s fair to characterize Lethbridge as “dangerous,” saying he finds Lethbridge a great place to live, but someone may feel different if they have been victimized. He also said most of the violent crime is concentrated within a certain population, often connected with addictions.

“The rates or the incidences of, say, violent attacks is quite low, I would say. It has happened here in Lethbridge, for sure. But more commonplace is the people know each other or they’re involved in certain types of high-risk activity which tends to result in, say, a violent act against one or the other.”

Hagel also cited a survey that found most people feel safe in their neighbourhoods, but police recognize there are other areas where that’s not the case.

Is a report like this helpful?

“I think we knew that there were some of these issues, and we’ve taken some very proactive steps to address those things,” he said. He also referred to initiatives in the works like adding boots on the street and neighbourhood watch-type programs and community officers.

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