Calgary crime rates remaining consistent, despite a changing public perception
A new poll suggests Calgarian perception of crime is outpacing actual crime in the city.
Alberta Municipalities commissioned the poll, which looked into how people across the province viewed crime rates, causation and solutions.
It found 61 per cent of those surveyed believe crime in their area is increasing.
But Calgary Police Service (CPS) numbers paint a different picture. Overall rates are slightly ticking upwards, but not at a level that warrants concern, according to one justice studies professor.
"Most crimes in Calgary have either dropped or stayed the same," Doug King told CTV News. "Looking at the latest rates, Calgary remains a very safe city in terms of where we are now versus where we were 10, 15 or 20 years ago."
The latest CPS stats from the third quarter of 2022 show five year increases of 5.5 and 1.2 per cent in the city's violent crimes and property crimes, respectively.
Commercial robberies and discharging of a firearm with intent are ticking up, but things like home invasions and aggravated assault are down.
King calls those normal changes.
"Nothing (in the CPS report) raised my eyebrows," he said.
It's all a matter of outlook, according to the poll's author Janet Brown.
"Perception and reality are sometimes not connected," she said. "It's probably a function of the fact that people are seeing more homelessness, they're seeing more people in distress and broken windows.
"The economic state influences a lot."
Poll respondents do cite the economy and drug and alcohol abuse as the reasons they believe crime is up.
But their solutions vary.
"The folks living outside of Calgary and Edmonton, they were more likely to say changes to the justice system are in order: stiffer sentences and those sorts of things," Brown said. "But people in the two major cities were more focused on social programs: trying to help people who maybe have some substance abuse problems and that's what's driving them to crime."
PROVINCIAL POLICING PERCEPTION
But a huge chunk of those who want changes agree one potential solution needs more input: the creation of an Alberta police force.
85 per cent of the poll's respondents said that if the Government of Alberta insists on going ahead with the creation of its own force, the matter would need to be put to a vote.
Albertans don't head to the polls until May, but we're already hearing a lot from our politicians about crime.
This week saw the announcement, from the province, of 12 sheriffs who will patrol with CPS officers downtown.
It's expected the issue of law and order will play a massive role in the vote -- even if the actual statistics don't deem it a paramount issue.
"I think we're going to see a lot of talk about it," Brown said, "especially rural crime, because that base is very important to the UCP."
Calgary's crime rates aren't moving at the same clip as Edmonton's, and Brown sees the capital city as a place where some can be swayed to vote for a more policing-centric model.
King says that wouldn't be productive.
"Policing doesn't drop crime rates," he said. "That's more about crime suppression and crime displacement."
The poll surveyed 900 Albertans between Jan. 17 and 24. It has a margin of error of 3.3 per cent.