For the first time in five years, Abbotsford and Mission are seeing a hike in annual crime figures released by Statistics Canada.
But police spokesmen in both communities point out that the numbers are still down from where they were in 2010.
The stats, released Wednesday, report the crime severity index and the crime rate for 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs) across Canada for 2014.
The Abbotsford-Mission CMA recorded the sixth-highest crime rate in the nation and the seventh-highest figure on the crime severity index – although both figures were below the provincial average.
The area recorded 6,496 Criminal Code offences per 100,000 population, compared to the national average of 5,046 and the provincial average of 7,599. The rate rose seven per cent increase over 2013.
The area’s crime severity index (CSI), which is based on the number of crimes reported and the severity of each offence, was up six per cent from 2013. The figure, 84.4, is higher than the national average of 66.7, but less and the provincial average of 91.6.
The numbers, broken down further, separate the two communities from one another. Abbotsford’s CSI for 2014 is 74.6, compared to 94 in 2010, and Mission’s is 120 compared to 125.5 in 2010.
Both communities recorded increases in their CSI (a 3.5 per cent hike in Abbotsford, 10.5 per cent in Mission), violent CSI (9.4 per cent and 38.3 respectively) and non-violent CSI (1.6 and 3.5).
Const. Ian MacDonald said the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) is not pleased with the numbers.
“We’re concerned about it because we are a jurisdiction that for four years straight was moving the numbers the other way,” he said.
MacDonald attributed the 2014 increases to two main issues that are causing challenges for police: the ongoing Townline Hill conflict and street and small-business robberies.
Police first reported a year ago that a conflict between two groups of young men in the Townline and Blueridge areas was resulting in incidents that ranged from vandalism and mischief – such as keying cars and smashing windows – to arson.
Those incidents have since progressed to include several shootings and assaults. The problems have continued into 2015, and on Sunday a house was hit by gunfire, although no injuries were reported.
MacDonald said robberies are another ongoing challenge for police. Incidents at banks have gone down, but there are more robberies at small businesses and on the streets, he said.
MacDonald said the APD will continue to look at innovative solutions to tackle these problems and drop the crime stats again.
Sgt. Shaun Wright of the Mission RCMP said that agency will also continue to analyze crime trends and implement crime-reduction strategies in hopes of dropping the numbers.
He said Mission council recently approved funding for three additional officers this year who will be part of a newly formed prolific offender suppression team that will conduct targeted enforcement on prolific offenders.
“Experience has shown that a few people in the community are responsible for the majority of criminal offences,” Wright said.
He said a “significant number” of crimes are related to mental-health issues, and the Mission RCMP has an officer who works full-time in partnership with Fraser Health and the APD as part of a newly formed “assertive community treatment” team.
MacDonald and Wright both noted that although the crime stats have gone up, they are still down from a few years ago.
The highest crime rate in the country for 2014 was Saskatoon (8,.229), followed by Regina (7,858) and Vancouver (7,425). The lowest was Toronto (2,844).
The three CMAs recording the highest CSIs were Saskatoon (109.7), Regina (102.8) and Vancouver (96.7). The lowest was Quebec (45.2).