New statistics show crime in Saanich and across Greater Victoria continues to decline as part of larger regional and provincial trends. But national figures show an increase in crime, and some specific categories of crime including violent crimes were up.
Total Criminal Code violations (excluding traffic violations) in Saanich dropped 3.88 per cent in 2017 when measured against Saanich’s population. This figure extends a downward trend that has been evident since 2013, when Criminal Code violations (excluding traffic) stood at 4,188 — a drop of 15.5 per cent from 2012.
While this decline has slowed down in recent years – Criminal Code violations per 100,000 population actually rose in 2015 – but the overall trend points in only one direction: down.
What accounts for the lower crime rates? Scholars have pointed to several factors. They include legislative changes, especially, but not exclusively in the area of firearms, changing social values with individuals showing more deference for social institutions, economic factors with low crime rates reflecting low inflation rates, and above all, demographics. According to this theory, crime has dropped as the cohort of individuals considered most prone to crime — males aged 15 to 24 — has shrunk, with corresponding declines.
Other communities in the Greater Victoria region have generally followed this trajectory, with some variations. The City of Victoria recorded a drop of 2.21 per cent, while Oak Bay recorded a drop of 0.45 per cent.
Of some interest is the uptick of crime on the Saanich Peninsula. Central Saanich, Sidney and North Saanich all recorded increases in the total number of Criminal Code violations (minus traffic) but from from lower bases. Rates in Central Saanich rose to 635 in 2017 from 552 the previous year. In Sidney, they rose to 494 from 456, while rates in North Saanich rose to 306 from 292. This said, the trio of Peninsula communities rank among the least dangerous communities in Canada, based on the Crime Severity Index.
Figures are largely down in communities on the western side of the Trans-Canada Highway. Langford (1,707 in 2017, down from 1,773 in 2016), Colwood (529 in 2017, down from 633), and View Royal (498 in 2017, down from 512) all recorded declines, while Sooke recorded an increase (798 in 2017, up from 765 in 2016).
Provincially, total Criminal Code violations (as measured against the provincial population) dropped 4.07 per cent from 2016.
Nationally, total Criminal Code violations rose 1.13 per cent in 2017 — the third straight increase. Total crime violations also rose in 2015 (3.27 per cent) and 2016 (1.18 per cent) after dropping in 2014 (down 2.86 per cent) and 2013 (a drop of 7.75 per cent).
Looking at more detailed categories, total violent Criminal Code violations actually rose in Saanich in 2017 by almost 11.5 per cent after declining three out of the last four years.
Victoria, meanwhile, recorded a drop of 1.49 per cent in violent crimes, the second in as many years. Still, Victoria recorded 2,450 violent crime incidents in 2017 — far above the figure of 899 for Saanich, whose population (114,148) exceeds the population of Victoria (85,792). This difference of course reflects the more urban nature of Victoria compared to Saanich.
Oak Bay, meanwhile, recorded an increase of almost 47 per cent in the number of violent crime incidents (when measured against population). But this large percentage actually threatens to obscure the fact that Oak Bay recorded 58 violent crimes in 2017 — up from 39 in 2016 — relatively low numbers when compared to figures for Victoria and Saanich.
This said, Oak Bay was the site of arguably the region’s most high-profile crime — the murders of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey Berry in December 2017. Authorities have charged their father, Andrew Berry, with two counts of second-degree murder in their deaths.
Victoria, meanwhile, recorded one first-degree murder, with zero cases of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Saanich recorded zero homicides of any kind in 2017.