Sex assault, hate crime reports on the rise in Alberta as theft and property crimes decrease

A decrease in police-reported reported break and enters, robberies and thefts under $5,000 are considered the main drivers of the latest crime snapshot in Alberta.

Data released Tuesday by Statistics Canada shows a nearly seven per cent decrease in crime in Alberta in the 2021 Crime Severity Index (CSI) — the largest decrease among provinces and territories in Canada. The reduction in Alberta and British Columbia (which saw a drop of five per cent) had the “largest relative downward impact on the national CSI,” StatCan reported.

Canada’s CSI decreased 0.3 per cent overall in 2021.

“(The Alberta CSI is) definitely a positive. But as usual with such things, the devil is in the details,” said Dr. Temitope Oriola, a criminology professor at the University of Alberta.

While certain crimes went down, similar to trends reported across the country, Alberta saw an increase in level one sexual assaults and hate crimes.

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Read more: New report identifies 7 extremist groups of threat to Alberta, offers recommendations to combat hate

Alberta no exception to sex assault spike

According to StatCan, Alberta saw a 22 per cent increase in police-reported level one sexual assaults in 2021, a contributor to the national increase of 18 per cent and the fourth highest increase among provinces and territories. The numbers of actual incidents are believed to be significantly underreported and represent an estimated six per cent of the sexual assaults in Canada.

“Certainly in Edmonton, reports to the police are increasing,” said Mary Jane James, CEO of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.

“But does that mean sexual violence instances are increasing or does that mean more people are coming forward? That’s hard to tell.”

Click to play video: 'Hate crime reports in Canada surged during COVID-19 pandemic: StatCan' Hate crime reports in Canada surged during COVID-19 pandemic: StatCan

Hate crime reports in Canada surged during COVID-19 pandemic: StatCan

Hate crimes up in 2021, especially in Edmonton

Police reported hate crimes also increased in Alberta in 2021 by 15 per cent, but mainly because of behaviour in its capital city.

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Edmonton saw a 47 per cent increase in hate crimes last year. In 2020, Edmonton recorded 79 hate crimes and in 2021, that number jumped to 116. Calgary had a three per cent decrease with 144 reports in 2020 and 139 in 2021.

“Similar to sexual assault, we know hate crime is underreported,” said Warren Silver, a StatCan Analyst.

“Roughly only about 22 per cent of incidents get reported to police.”

Incidents targeting religion, sexual orientation and race or ethnicity make up for the majority of the increase in hate-motivated crime, according to StatCan.

Read more: Alberta and Edmonton see highest rise in reported hate crimes in Canada

While the data may not provide a full picture of the crime landscape in Alberta, Dr. Oriola said they are useful to determine where to direct resources.

“They do mean we have a lot of work to do in terms of crime prevention,” he said.

“Even in moments when the numbers are relatively low, they have to be interpreted cautiously.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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