Crimes reported to Canadian police forces reached their lowest level in 39 years in 2011, a trend that’s reflected in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
Statistics Canada reported Tuesday that the country’s overall police-reported crime rate dropped six per cent in 2011 from the previous year, with two million Criminal Code violations reported — 110,000 fewer than in 2010.
Overall, it marked the eighth consecutive decrease in Canada’s crime rate.
Since peaking in 1991, the crime rate has generally decreased, and is now at its lowest point since 1972.
Locally, police report a similar trend.
According to Ridge Meadows RCMP statistics, criminal offences dropped by 13 per cent over 2010 and 2011 in Maple Ridge, while they rose by one per cent in Pitt Meadows.
“Maple Ridge is no different. Pitt Meadows has seen a slightly lower drop, but this may be in part due to the opening of the new Golden Ears Bridge and the new Pitt River Bridge, which has increased traffic flow and accessibility,” said Supt. Dave Walsh, officer in charge of the Ridge Meadows detachment.
“The downward trend is likely a blend of several factors. Changing demographics with our population aging, along with consistent and proactive crime reduction strategies by policing agencies country wide.”
Police services in Canada also reported about 424,400 incidents of violent crime, a drop of 14,800 from the year before.
Both the rate and severity of violent crime fell four per cent in 2011. It was the fifth consecutive annual decline in the severity of violent crime.
Police reported nearly 90,300 incidents of impaired driving in 2011, 3,000 more than the year before. The rate of impaired driving increased two per cent in 2011, the fourth increase in five years.
In 2011, police reported more than 113,100 drug crimes, of which more than half or 54 per cent were for the possession of cannabis.
Ridge Meadows RCMP said locally, too, there may be a slight rise in drug and impaired driving charges.
“In regards to impaired driving, this has been somewhat sporadic with the new Immediate Roadside Prohibition Legislation,” said Walsh.
“The new legislation has been a very effective tool in removing impaired drivers and reducing accidents and deaths. When it is in effect, there tends to be less criminal code charges. But many more drivers are taken off the road as a roadside prohibition can be processed in about a quarter of the time it takes to process an impaired driver.”
Statistics Canada also found decreases in several major categories, including attempted murder, major assaults, sexual assaults, robberies, break-ins and motor vehicle thefts.
Walsh, however, noted that statistics do not capture non-crime related police work, such as media relations, special event policing, community policing, nuisance calls about bears and other wildlife, or Mental Health Act apprehensions.
“The reality is that more than 70 per cent of police work is not related to criminal offences, but rather it is dealing with social issues,” he said.
The federal government credits its “tough-on-crime” agenda for pushing the crime rate to a 39-year low.
Randy Kamp, the member of parliament for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, said his government’s approach has put deterrents in place that discourage people from committing crime.
The omnibus crime bill that was passed in the House of Commons last year put in place new mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offences and tougher sentences for other crimes, such as sexual offences.
“Whether [the measures] reduce crime or not, we think there needs to be public denunciation,” said Kamp.
“I also think some of the approaches to policing that have been taken have helped to focus on the small percentage of the people who are involved in a large percentage of crime.”