Crime in the North is double the national average: StatsCan

Crime rates in Northern B.C. are more than double the national average and nearly two times worse than those the province's south, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

The region had 12,711 crimes per 100,000 people in 2013, compared to 7,050 per 100,000 in Southern B.C. and 5,190 nationally.

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Northern B.C. included everything from the province's northern border down to the Cariboo, Central Coast, and Fraser-Fort George regions. The study used survey data from local police departments, meaning it only accounts for reported crimes.

Across the country, crime rates were significantly higher in the territories and northern regions than in southern Canada, with northern Saskatchewan leading with 54,978. The territories had crime rates seven times the national average. However, Canada's overall crime rate has been declining for around 25 years.

Only Northern Quebec had a below average crime rate, while Northern Alberta's rate was slightly higher than Northern B.C.'s.

Northern police reported a higher rate of violent crime, which accounts for around 20 per cent of all offenses. Assaults made up 47 per cent of violent crimes in the northern parts of provinces, compared to 40 per cent in the south. Assaults with a weapon, sexual assault and sexual violations against children were all higher in the north.

Despite accounting for only six per cent of Canada's population, 12 per cent of criminal incidents occurred in northern provincial regions.

Dr. Jonathan Swainger, a University of Northern B.C. professor who's writing a book on the history of crime in the Peace, said northern communities tend to blame crime on transient workers in extractive industries.

"The northern parts of all the provinces are considered more likely to be full of criminals — that's the historic image," he said. "The wild, rough north, a bunch of crazy drunken lumbermen killing each other with axes."

The lack of connection to a community, combined with isolation and drug and alcohol use fuels some criminal behaviour, Swainger said. 

"But it doesn't exactly explain the reality of policing in these regions," he said, adding that northern communities tend to lack addiction treatment, mental health and welfare resources available in the south.

He said that blaming out of town workers is too simple.

"When I go through the crime records for the Peace River Region, guess what? It's a lot of locals getting arrested too," he said.

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