Saanich among safest places in Canada

Community policing, aging population helps, says mayor

Saanich is one of the safest municipalities in the country to live, according to crime stats released by Statistics Canada.

The municipality knocked 12.8-per-cent off its crime severity index (CSI), released in late July, which measures the seriousness of crime in 239 communities across Canada with populations greater than 10,000.

Saanich came in at No. 203, where the higher the number, the safer the community. Amherstburg, Ont., is statistically the safest place on the list with a ranking of 239. The least safe is North Battleford, Sask.

Saanich’s crime severity index came in at 44.5 in 2011 versus 57.3 the year before. Unlike the crime rate, which measures volume of crime, with the CSI, each offence is assigned a weight, and the more serious offences have a greater impact.

“(This result) is certainly a credit to the hardworking men and women of this organization,” said Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen.

While Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard applauded the officers in the municipality, he said there’s more to decreasing crime than police work. It’s the community-based approach to policing that makes a difference, he said.

“We’ve got 115,000 people, almost all of them are our partners (against) crime. And if they feel that they have a community police department that’s open to their input, their advice, their partnership, they can help us prevent crime,” Leonard said. “We want our force to have more interaction with the good guys than the bad guys, and we put a lot of emphasis on it.”

The mayor also said Saanich’s aging population plays a role in a low crime rate.

“Our demographic is in our favour. There are fewer young men in their 20s than there used to be, and young men in their 20s tend to break the law,” he said. “I’ll give us some credit, but I’m realistic to know that the demographic is an advantage, as well.”

Also ranked low in the 239 communities were neighbouring jurisdictions Oak Bay (209), Colwood (211), North Saanich (223) and Central Saanich (229).

Victoria was the highest-ranked community in the Capital Region at 30th in Canada, though even the city dropped 13 spots, seeing a 14-per-cent decrease in its crime severity index from 2010.

“We’re proud of what we achieved, but we also recognize that more work needs to be done to reduce crime,” acting VicPD Chief Del Manak said in a statement.

The Capital Region ranked 16th out of 33 metropolitan areas across the country for overall crime severity.

That placed Greater Victoria behind such regular crime leaders as Vancouver, Abbotsford-Mission and Kelowna, but worse than such larger cities as Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa.

– with files from Daniel Palmer

kslavin@saanichnews.com