For the first time in 12 years, police reported crime increased in 2015, according to numbers released Wednesday by Statistics Canada.
The figures show the Crime Severity Index went up 5 per cent nationwide, after more than decade of decline.
The measure also rose in 33 cities across the country, with Victoria seeing the second-highest jump, a 22-per-cent second only to a 29-per-cent rise in Calgary.
Simon Fraser University criminologist Rob Gordon said the increases came as something of a surprise.
“Well it was disappointing because i think most people thought it was going to continue down,” he said.
Victoria Police Cst. Matt Rutherford said department crime analysts were still crunching the numbers to understand the causes for the increase in the index in the city.
“It’s really too early to say, it’s important to remember that the index the way to use measure the stats its weighted so looks at a variety of issues,” he said. “So a simple homicide or a very severe crime can make the numbers go up, and that might have what happened in this situation. We’re looking into it.”
The increase in the CSI in Victoria outpaced the average across the Capital Region, where the measure rose 16 per cent, still well above the national and provincial averages.
While the rise may seem concerning, Gordon says its important to read too much into a one-year bump after years of declining crime rates either nationwide or in the city, adding more detailed data from the province, including information on types of crime, due in coming weeks should shed light on why Victoria is seeing such a spike in the stat.
“The sky is not falling, that’s number one,” he said. “The next step always is to drill down into the qualitative data to see where the increase has taken place.”
But the key figure to watch will be next year, when the 2016 data is ready, to see if a jump in 2015 is an anomaly or the beginning of a trend.
Meanwhile the data also suggest the Capital Region’s municipal police forces are struggling to get charges laid, with clearance rates, the proportion of cases where charges are laid versus number of crimes reported, falling everywhere but Central Saanich.
Rutherford said his department is looking at that as well.
“I do know we’re busy and crimes and files do take time and the more serious the file, the more time it takes and we want things right when they get to the court process.”
Rutherford and Gordon both stress the rate and severity of crime are still well below where they were a decade ago.