A new report released last week by Statscan showed much higher rural crime rates compared to urban, particularly in the prairie provinces. Alberta’s rural crime reported 38 per cent higher than in cities.
Police-reported crime rate in rural areas was 23% higher than the urban crime rate.
While police reported crime in Canada has been on a downward trend from 2009 to 2017, the report notes, the crime-rate decrease was larger in urban areas than in rural areas. The prairie provinces on average had 11 per cent higher rural crime rates than urban, with Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, along with Newfoundland and Labrador, being the only provinces where rural crime was higher than urban.
Rural Alberta’s break and enter and motor vehicle theft is the highest in Canada, with break and enter incidents 48 per cent higher than in urban Alberta. The prairie provinces also have much higher rates of mischief.
“Other violent crimes overrepresented in rural areas included sexual violations against children and violent firearms offences (such as discharging or pointing a firearm),” the report says.
The report’s findings are not a surprise to Drumheller RCMP Staff Sergeant Ed Bourque.
“Over the past five years the rates of urban and rural crime have been going up and we know that has lots to do with the downturn in the economy, issues with meth, fentanyl, and so on,” he said.
For police, crime in rural areas is a different beast than what goes on in the city, and Staff Sgt. Borque agreed it presents unique challenges for RCMP. But while rural areas might face higher-rates of crime, maybe smaller, more connected communities are able to rally together to fight it better than urbanites.
“Demographically it’s difficult for us -- we can’t be everywhere at once. But what we are seeing as well is we got the community on board,” Staff Sgt Borque said, adding people’s use of trail cams and surveillance in their homes keeps police more in the loop than ever.
“They’re giving us immediate updates because they're getting pictures of the accused, and all of those things are assisting us,” he said.
While rural criminals seem to be outpacing their urban counterparts, the report noted that the high rural numbers were caused predominantly by a few communities with significant crime problems.
“The higher crime rate in rural areas was driven by a small number of police services that reported very high crime rates. In fact, most police serving a predominantly rural population recorded relatively low rates of crime,” the report says.
Police services serving a mostly rural population served 16% of the population in the provinces in 2017, but reported 23% of violent crimes, 17% of property crimes, 27% of Criminal Code traffic offences, and 23% of other criminal violations.
Higher rural crime rates were mainly observed in the northern area of the provinces compared to southern areas, except in Alberta where more rural crime was reported in rural areas in the south.