photo: VM/iStock

Taking Stock of Alberta Crime Rates

By Stephen Cook

Despite some positive signs, Alberta continues to grapple with high rates of crime relative to other provinces.

Statistics Canada data on 2018 police-reported crimes show several areas of concern in Alberta, including a 3.4 percent increase in break and enters. Even a good-news stat—motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 people fell by 6.8 percent—still leaves that rate more than twice the national average. Rising crime soaks up police resources, while property-based offences also drive up home and auto insurance rates.

“Crime has been rising since 2014,” says RCMP chief superintendent Shahin Mehdizadeh. “That coincides with Alberta’s economic downturn.”

To combat the trend, the RCMP is implementing new strategies such as intelligence-directed policing and better coordination with other law enforcement agencies. Likewise, education initiatives—by the Mounties, community groups and AMA—provide Albertans with preventive advice.

Mehdizadeh says these efforts are working. In the RCMP’s Alberta jurisdictions, totals for motor vehicle theft, theft over and under $5,000, and possession of stolen goods all fell between January and September 2019, compared to the same period in 2018.

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But break and enters remain a problem­—especially in rural communities. Groups like the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association and REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities are working to address the issue, and the provincial government recently outlined measures such as expanding the powers of peace officers and disincentivizing the trade in scrap metal.

KEEP IT PERSONAL
Protecting your property now also means guarding against identity theft (e.g., the theft of personal documents) and fraud (the deceptive use of identity information). In 2018, Alberta saw double-digit increases in both crimes.

Detective Linda Herczeg, of the Edmonton Police Service’s economic crimes section, attributes this in part to greater public awareness leading to increased reporting. But fraudsters have also become more sophisticated, using robocalls, fake websites and spoofed emails to lure victims.

As Herczeg says, always beware of calls from seemingly legitimate organizations—even with matching caller ID—asking for personal details. Online, be suspicious of emails that direct you to click a link or open an attachment if you doubt the source.

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Some simple steps can also save you trouble down the road. Jeff Kasbrick, AMA’s vice-president of government and stakeholder relations, suggests keeping your vehicle registration and insurance certificates on your person, rather than in your car. “It’ll keep your personal info safe if your car is stolen or broken into,” he says. And AMA’s Shredding Events every April and May help members securely destroy no-longer-needed personal documents.

BE AUTO AWARE
Similarly, AMA’s Lock It or Lose It campaign, launched in 2018, reminds drivers to always lock their cars and trucks, and offers other tips to make them less attractive to criminals. Vehicle thefts have gone down, “but there were still more than 23,000 thefts in Alberta in 2018—that’s 63 per day,” Kasbrick says. He adds that stolen vehicles are often used to commit further crimes.

Less encouraging is Alberta’s 4.3 percent uptick in the rate of impaired driving incidents per 100,000 people, reversing multiple years of declines. While this rise may be related to increased enforcement and cannabis legalization, Kasbrick says it’s important to remember every instance of impaired driving is preventable.

“We need to take it upon ourselves to create the kind of driving community—and safer communities overall—that we all aspire to.”

WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED
AMA members can save on home and auto insurance policies. Visit AMAInsurance.ca to learn how.