Abbotsford-Mission had the second-highest murder rate in the country in 2017 and recorded a 31 per cent increase in sexual assaults, but its overall crime rate dropped by 12 per cent.
That is according to the latest crime numbers released Monday by Statistics Canada.
The annual numbers report the crime severity index (CSI) and the crime rate for 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs) across Canada for 2017.
Abbotsford and Mission are combined into one CMA in the stats.
The region saw 10 murders last year, nine of which took place in Abbotsford. The Statistics Canada figures only account for nine, putting the area’s homicide rate at 4.72 per 100,000 people, behind only Thunder Bay, Ont., with a rate of 5.8 and ahead of Edmonton with a rate of 3.49.
The figures show that the Abbotsford-Mission CMA was the sixth highest in the nation for its CSI and eighth highest for its crime rate. This compares to seventh and sixth, respectively, in 2016.
The local CMA recorded 6,772 Criminal Code offences per 100,000 people in 2017, compared to the national average of 5,334 and the provincial average of 7,417.
The area’s CSI – which is calculated based on the number of crimes reported and the severity of each offence – was down one per cent from 2016. The figure, 88.8, is higher than the national average of 72.9 and on par with the provincial average of 88.9.
The numbers, broken down further, separate the two communities from one another. Abbotsford’s CSI for 2017 was 88.15 (up 3.74 per cent from 2016), while Mission’s was 90.95 (a 16.47 per cent drop).
Abbotsford recorded a 4.18 per cent increase in its non-violent CSI, while Mission’s was almost 26 per cent lower than in 2016.
However, both communities recorded increases in their violent CSI (up 2.45 per cent in Abbotsford and 23.1 in Mission) after experiencing drops in 2016.
Stats Canada attributes the changes in the local CMA to decreases in break-and-enters, robberies and violent firearm offences offset by an increase in homicides and sexual assaults.
The local CMA also recorded 55 sexual assaults in 2017 – a 31 per cent increase over 2016.
Insp. Brett Crosby Jones of the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) said the department is pleased with the decline in crime overall, and has taken intensive steps to address last year’s homicide rate, which he described as “alarming.”
He said those steps include forming a gang crime unit earlier this year, “proactively targeting” gangsters and their associates, and offering gang-prevention programs to at-risk youth.
Crosby Jones said the hike in sexual-assault numbers is reflected mainly in crimes against children and can likely be attributed to more resources being added to the Internet Child Exploitation team.
He said the increase could also be due to victims becoming more comfortable with reporting sexual assaults, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement.