First things first – we do have a problem with crime, including violent crime in the Lower Mainland and across B.C.
But during the past couple of years, there have been increasing calls for action, claiming that a tsunami of crime is taking over our cities.
This is flatly untrue, as we can see in crime data from Statistics Canada.
The 2022 national crime rate was 5,668 crimes reported per 100,000 Canadians.
That’s barely above half the peak reached in 1991, when the rate was 10,342.
Both the rates of violent crime and property crime have climbed in the last few years, it’s true. But they’re coming up from record lows and long declines that began decades ago.
What that tells us is not a simple story of rampant crime, but a complex story, where some things are getting worse, others better at the same time.
After 15 years, we have yet to come to grips with our regional gang wars, which flare up with ugly predictability.
Fraud is rising, and sexual assaults are being reported at higher rates.
At the same time, youth crime has diminished greatly, and burglaries and car thefts are far lower.
Why do we think things are uniformly worse, when the evidence tells a different story?
We have a rapidly urbanizing population, with higher homelessness and more obvious street drug use. That may not be a threat to the average person, but the perception of increased disorder on the streets does not make people feel safer.
In addition, we tend to remember the last bad thing that happened, and with 5.5 million people in B.C., there will always be a crime somewhere to make headlines.
We can’t diminish the need to deal with crime, and its root causes.
But panic and claims of an epidemic of crime aren’t going to help us deal with the messy reality.