Courtenay’s crime rate dropped in 2018 over the previous year, according to Statistic Canada data, which has just released annual data for B.C. communities.
The number of incidents dropped to 3,168 from 3,297 in 2017, while the severity of crimes was also down. Since 2014, the rates dropped 3.39 per cent, then went up almost six per cent, dropped in 2016 by 7.41 per cent and rose in 2017 by more than 15 per cent. The 2018 numbers represent a 5.53 per cent decline.
In Courtenay, the number of adults charged also dropped to 625 from 713 in 2017, while the number of youths charged went up to 47, after three years of decline. It was the highest number since 2014 when 49 young people were charged. The City has been working with the police on initiatives to tackle some of the issues.
“We’ve certainly been working very closely with the RCMP,” said Mayor Bob Wells. “Right after the election, that was my first meeting.”
He highlighted some problems they are targeting, such as tent cities, drug houses and nuisance properties, adding some things have come to fruition, such as uniformed gang enforcement team from the Lower Mainland that came here to put pressure on locals recently.
“Generally, things are pretty good in the Valley, but there are challenges,” Wells said. “We’re going to continue to look for any of the options that might be effective in continuing to put that pressure on the anti-social behaviour … criminal behaviour in our community.”
Another area of focus, Wells said, is prolific offenders that commit a disproportionate amount of crime in the area.
“You might have half a dozen people that are doing, like, 95 per cent of the B&Es and thefts,” he said.
The numbers can be broken down into a large number of subsets based on types of crime. For example, for homicides, there were none in Courtenay in 2018 after one year the previous year and three in 2016. These serious types of offences, as they are not frequent, can change radically from year to year and dramatically affect Crime Severity Index (CSI) numbers. For example, last year, the city was listed as the 45th most dangerous city in the country according to a Maclean’s report.
Offences under $5,000 make up a large number of the crimes. In 2018, there were 815 incidents, down from 985 the previous year. However, theft over $5,000, excluding motor vehicles, increased to 30 from 13.
One fact that stood out in Courtenay was the near absence of firearm offences for use, discharge and possessions. In 2018, there was one incident, with three in 2017 and none during the three previous years. However, there have been incidents of shot fired recently. In June, Comox Valley RCMP did respond to a few calls of shots being fired, but did not turn up any criminal activity.
In terms of narcotics trafficking, including production and distribution, the numbers were four incidents for cannabis, down from 12; five for cocaine, down from six; and for other controlled drugs, the numbers went up from 12 to 17. This included seven incidents for heroin; four for opioids other than heroin (only one the previous year); and one incident each for methamphetamine or methylenedioxyamphetamine (ecstasy).
Along with the numbers for incidents, the data were compiled into CSI tables. Statistics Canada produces the CSI to get a score for communities. Through this, higher numbers are attached to more serious offences, in order to give a clearer picture of serious crimes in a community. It uses a baseline number of 100 for the average based on the year 2006. In 2017, Courtenay came in above this number, with a CSI score of 109.63, the only year in the last five in which it topped 100. The average B.C. score for 2018 was 87.67.
For 2018, the situation in Courtenay improved to 96.18, or slightly lower than 2016 when it was 97.04.
The CSI table also includes a subset for violent crime. For this, 2016 was the high mark with a score of 115.17, when there were three homicides in the city. The following year there was one and none last year, so the violent crime index number dropped to 84.35 in 2017 and 77.21 for 2018.
Other numbers for Comox Valley
The number of crimes in Comox Valley rural detachment was the lowest since 2014. The total for incidents for 2018 was 1,103, compared with 1,021 from 2014. On a per capita basis, the rates for the two years is close.
From the previous year, the number of incidents dropped by 164, or just over 14 per cent. In 2017, the number had been up about 10 per cent over the number for 2016.
The number of adults charged in 2018 was also down to 172 from 225, and five youth as compared with 12 in 2017.
As far as the CSI numbers, 2018 also saw a decline, from 47.83 in 2017 to 36.75. The violent crime index also saw a drop from 43.57 to 33.40.