Saskatoon and Regina have the two highest crime rates of any major cities in the country. According to data released Wednesday by Statistics Canada, a crime spike in 2014 means Saskatoon leads all Canadian cities with an overall crime rate well above the national average.
Saskatchewan continues to draw attention for its dismal record on crime. The fact communities in our province continue to rank among the most violent per capita in Canada is a source of shame.This week, the annual Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics report for 2018 was released.Regina has the second-highest crime-severity index for cities in the country, following Lethbridge. Saskatoon was fourth, following third-place Winnipeg.It is important to note the homicide rate for Indigenous peoples was more than nine times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous people in Saskatchewan. Out of 34 total homicide victims in the province in 2018, 22 were Indigenous.The first response of media and the public is to turn to law enforcement to answer for these numbers. In fact, RCMP and municipal police forces deserve praise for the 2.8-per-cent drop in the crime severity index from 2017. While police play an important role in dealing with crime, it is important the gaze moves to the provincial and federal governments to tackle economic inequality, mental health and addictions issues.As the saying goes, to fight crime, fight poverty.North Battleford mayor Ryan Bater has been vocal on this issue, as his city has been the focus of much attention for its crime rate. Notably, Macleans magazine did a cover story calling the small city “the most dangerous place in Canada.”“Anti-social negative behaviour, drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues. All of these are either a provincial or federal responsibility,” he told Newstalk Radio after the Macleans article appeared. “What we really need is for them to align their policies and programs with our local and regional needs.”This need remains.Regina Police Chief Evan Bray points to a 25-per-cent increase in meth-related offences as posing a significant challenge for his force, which can’t simply arrest their way out of the problems it faces on the streets of the city.“Everyone’s waking up to the fact that there’s underlying social issues,” he told the Leader-Post this week. “Why are people stealing cars? They’re stealing cars to commit crimes to feed an addiction. Then let’s solve the addiction. If we can do that then everything else trickles down.”We hope to see more announcements, like the one made this week, adding 10 beds to the Pine Lodge addictions treatment centre in Indian Head.As the federal election campaign is already upon us, and a provincial election is just over a year away, politicians need to make sure solid policy on poverty and addictions are part of their platforms.