OTTAWA — The national crime rate rose three per cent in 2015 — the first increase in 12 years.
There were almost 1.9 million Criminal Code incidents — excluding traffic offences — reported by police last year, about 70,000 more than in 2014, Statistics Canada said Wednesday.
Irvin Waller, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, cautioned not to read a lot into the figures.
"I think an uptick, on its own, doesn't mean too much,'' he said Wednesday.
While the per-capita crime rate grew in 2015, it has generally been on a downward trend since the early 1990s, with the only other increase reported in 2003, Statistics Canada said.
"I think an uptick, on its own, doesn't mean too much."
In addition, there were wide provincial differences, with the rate rising 12 per cent in Alberta, staying the same in Ontario and dropping 12 per cent in Prince Edward Island.
National rates of police-reported crime increased for most Criminal Code violations, including homicide, attempted murder, firearms offences, robbery and sexual assault.
Rates for all types of property crimes also increased from the previous year, including fraud, possession of stolen property, identify fraud, theft, and breaking and entering.
Severity of crimes also rose
The national crime severity index, which measures the volume of reports and how serious they are, rose five per cent in 2015, but the agency said that was still 31 per cent lower than a decade ago.
In Alberta, the higher severity index was primarily the result of more incidents of breaking and entering, theft of $5,000 or under and motor vehicle theft, the agency said.
More incidents of breaking and entering in 2015 also contributed to the severity index increase in New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.
The rise in property crime in Alberta might be attributed to the sudden downturn in the economy, which tends to prompt such a spike, Waller said.
More than 600 homicides were reported
He expressed concern about the 604 reported homicides in 2015, a rate increase of 15 per cent from the previous year.
"These statistics are a reminder that we should be doing more to pull these rates even further down,'' Waller said. "On a per capita rate, it's of course much, much lower than the United States, but it's higher than many European countries and countries like Japan.''
He said while it is too early to tell, the rise in the rate of murder cases could stem from an increase in gang-related shootings in cities including Toronto.
"These statistics are a reminder that we should be doing more to pull these rates even further down."
Some cities, such as Glasgow in Scotland and Minneapolis and Oakland in the United States, have analyzed homicides in search of solutions, Waller said.
Typically the answer lies in providing more outreach services for youth, as well as programs to get young people out of gangs and help parents deal with troubled children, added Waller, who is working with a network of Canadian cities to help bring their crime rates down.
"It has very little to do with policing.''
In Canada, Winnipeg and Edmonton have begun focusing more resources on at-risk youth, Waller said.
"But the amounts of money that have been put in are nowhere near what's needed.''
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