“The crime problem in Thunder Bay has been dismissed…”

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The crime problem in Thunder Bay has been dismissed by some as a perception, namely Police Chief Herman, who was quoted in an article on TBNewsWatch called “Police Petition” on October 8th, 2009. Herman also said he feels safe walking around in his neighbourhood. Well, when he makes $195,000 a year off the public dime, I sincerely doubt he lives in a dangerous part of town. I’m glad he feels safe, but a lot of people in this city do not. We must ask ourselves if the crime problem in Thunder Bay really is solely due to perception, why are people perceiving more crime?
The obvious answer would seem to be there’s simply more crime than in previous years.
However, suggesting this seems to raise the ire of Donald Street. If the crime has gone down, it has not been by much. Even where it has decreased (crime does fluctuate from year to year. We’re talking trends, here), crime in Thunder Bay remains high relative to the rest of the country. Whenever crime has decreased, it seems to have decreased in the entire country, but again, relative to the rest of the country, Thunder Bay is doing horrible.
Let’s look at the statistics, shall we?
We will compare three cities of similar size: Thunder Bay, Kingston, and the Greater Sudbury Area. These statistics are from StatisticsCanada. In 2004, Thunder Bay had 9226 Criminal Code offences, versus 7010 for Kingston and 6188 for Sudbury. When we compare the changes from 2003 to 2004, Thunder Bay’s crime increased 8.2% versus 2.6% for Kingston. Sudbury actually had a very good decrease in crime: -4.7%.
In fact, of all of Canada’s cities in that time, Thunder Bay’s crime grew the most. Many major cities had changes of around -10% in crime. The city that had the next highest crime growth was Halifax, with 5.0%. Thunder Bay clearly had by far the largest increase in crime.
This makes sense. In 2009, 2608 intoxicated people were arrested in Thunder Bay versus just 279 in Sudbury. Herman admitted on a February 10th, 2010 article on TBNewsWatch called “Cop Talk” that Thunder Bay has a significant substance abuse problem. Why are there so many substance abusers in Thunder Bay versus Sudbury.  Sudbury has a similar sized population, similar geography, and similar demographics.
Let’s look at the Total Crime Severity Index for some more recent statistics from StatisticsCanada (2009).
Only six cities had a higher crime severity than Thunder Bay: Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Kelowna, Edmonton, and Abbotsford. Of these cities, all of them had large decreases in total crime severity except for two. Can you guess which ones didn’t have decreases?
Thunder Bay’s total crime severity index increased by 3 whereas Winnipeg increased by 2. In terms of Violent Crime Severity, only three cities beat out Thunder Bay: Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg. Thunder Bay is literally 4th worst in the country for violent crime severity (2009). Of these four cities, Regina and Saskatoon had their Violent Crime Severity Index decreased significantly from 2008.
Only Thunder Bay and Winnipeg had increases. Winnipeg’s index increased by 15; Thunder Bay’s by 17.
In 2007, Thunder Bay’s violent crime offences were only outdone by Regina, Saskatoon, and Saint John and not by a whole lot.
Why is Thunder Bay subject to such social problems? Surely, it must be a lack of police funding, you say. Not exactly. This year’s police budget over 2009 had a three percent increase, according to an article on TBNewsWatch called “Police Budget Up” on November 17th, 2009. Maybe it’s a lack of boots on the ground. We surely don’t have enough officers, right? According to StatisticsCanada, in 2002, “Thunder Bay continued to have the most officers per 100,000 population (204) among the 25 largest metropolitan areas, followed by Regina (192) and Hamilton (184). The three lowest rates were found in Quebec: Sherbrooke (109), Québec (122) and Saguenay (123). These metropolitan areas generally include more than one police force.”
So the funding is there and we have the officers. What could the answer be? If I may offer my hypothesis, there’s lack of public engagement on the part of the police. There’s an adamant unwillingness to admit there is a problem and the problem needs fixing.
The police sometimes even blatantly contradict themselves on information they give to the public. In an article on TBNewsWatch called “Core Crime” on February 25th, 2010, Herman said “…the vast majority of violent crimes happen outside of the city’s two downtown cores, with only about 19 per cent happening in the north and south cores. And just 12 per cent of property crimes occur within the cores.” Great, so crime is concentrated outside of the cores, right? Wait a minute…what’s this?
Executive officer with the Thunder Bay Police, Chris Adams was quoted in a June 28th, 2010 article on TBNewsWatch called “Danger Bay”, saying “The urban cores will, unfortunately, always be areas where higher concentration of crime will occur.” So according to the Thunder Bay Police, crime is simultaneously concentrated both inside the cores and outside the cores. Awesome.  Glad to see they’ve narrowed it down.
In that same article, Westfort Councillor Joe Virdiramo brushed off the idea that Thunder Bay could have significant crime, saying “I’ve been here since ‘94 and we haven’t had an incident at my house. Two years ago something happened to my neighbour but it is not rampant on our street.” Chief Herman has said the crime rate in total is down (September 29th, 2009. “Cops Pissed Off”). That may be true, but relative to the rest of the country, how are we doing?
In 2007, only 4 cities had crime increases in Criminal Code offences (excluding traffic). Thunder Bay had a small decrease. Most major centres had far larger decreases: Thunder Bay (-2.8%), Kingston (-11.7%), Sudbury (-9.3%). Violent offences saw Thunder Bay head the pack as well among these three similar-sized cities: Thunder Bay (1335), Kingston (689) and Sudbury (888). Robberies saw Thunder Bay head the pack: Thunder Bay (142), Kingston (37), Sudbury (72). Property offences saw Thunder Bay head the pack: Thunder Bay (3942), Kingston (3001), Sudbury (2691). Break and Enters saw Thunder Bay head the pack: Thunder Bay (878), Kingston (546), Sudbury (580). It was the same story with motor vehicle thefts: Thunder Bay (233), Kingston (176), and Sudbury (226). The one category Thunder Bay only came runner-up in was homicides: Thunder Bay (1.6), Kingston (0.7), and Sudbury (2.5).
As I sit here looking at these statistics, I wonder: How can Chief Herman and Councillor Virdiramo deny crime is a significant issue in Thunder Bay? It affects small business owners, tourists, and especially the elderly and those who are vulnerable.
We need real solutions to combat crime in Thunder Bay and what Chief Herman is doing clearly is not working. Denial isn’t a solution; action is.
In her time in office, what has Mayor Peterson done to combat the social problems that plague this city, ranging from substance abuse to rampant mental health issues?
Build a Waterfront? Re-pave some roads? Put us $200 million in debt? Before we have grandiose designs on attracting tourism to Thunder Bay, why don’t we first clean the city up?
Playing semantics and saying “the crime rate in Thunder Bay is down” when there has been a nationwide trend of decreasing crime doesn’t solve anything.
In a lot of cases, Thunder Bay’s crime has been the exception to the Canadian rule and gone up along with a few other cities, namely Winnipeg, Regina, and Saskatoon. Chief Herman attempting to attribute a nationwide declining crime trend to his good work is hardly believable when in the few cases where Thunder Bay’s crime has decreased, it wasn’t by much relative to other cities. We’ve increased in a lot of other areas, with violent crime becoming a growing concern. Denial that the problem exists is not a viable solution if we want to live in a safer community.
I would be no better than most if I simply offered criticism and no alternatives.
This city needs more detox beds and the LPH fully funded and staffed, complete with emergency facilities. Save costs and bolster the quality of Lakehead’s graduates by partnering with Lakehead University to give students in this field hands-on experience to deal with these patients.
We need youth diversion programs that get kids away from drugs and away from abusive parents.
Instead of blowing money on wind farms and flushing it away on waterfronts, why not take a tiny fraction of the funds allocated to these megaprojects and put them towards something that will see the quality of all our lives improve? Or shall we stay the course, pretend as if the problems aren’t there, and spend ourselves more into massive debt? Personally, I prefer the former over the latter.
Offering my perception,
Kyle Pereira