Pubdate: Mon, 30 Aug 2004
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2004 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown


The Yukon is the only Canadian jurisdiction that saw its crime rate go down
last year, according to new numbers from Statistics Canada.

However, the territory still holds onto third spot in the race for the
highest crime rate in Canada, behind only the Northwest Territories and

Rates are based on criminal incidents per 100,000 population.

In 2003, the Yukon's overall crime rate went down 2.1 per cent, to 25,998
total Criminal Code offences per 100,000 people for last year. Of that
number, 3,799 offences (per 100,000 residents) were classified as violent
(up 1.3 per cent), while 7,421 were property crimes (up 0.6 per cent).

In Canada, the average is 8,132 criminal offences per 100,000, with a
violent crime rate of 963 and property crime rate of 4,121.

According to numbers collected by the Yukon RCMP and distributed by the
territorial government, there were 9,596 actual Criminal Code and drug
crimes in the territory last year, down from 9,718 in 2002.

In 2003, 1,225 crimes were violent, while 2,458 were in the property offence

"Other" crimes, such as vandalism, disturbing the peace and breach of
probation, counted for 5,197 offences last year, and criminal traffic
offences constituted 541 incidents.

Under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the territory's Mounties
counted 175 offences, compared to 245 in 2002.

"We're aware, generally speaking, that the crime rate in the North is high,"
said Sgt. Guy Rook, spokesman for the Yukon RCMP's headquarters, based in

Rook noted the RCMP are looking to indicators other than just national crime
rates to get a handle on the Yukon's crime situation, such as a report on
the Whitehorse drug trade, scheduled for a November release.

Because the Yukon has such a small population, something as simple as a few
more people reporting crimes or police stepping up enforcement in one area
can increase the documented crime rates quickly.

"That's why we look to other indicators, like client satisfaction surveys,
consultations, communities raising the issues," said Rook.

Statistics Canada figures find that, nationally, the crime rate rose six per
cent in 2003, its first real gain in more than a decade.

The increase is blamed on a significant surge in counterfeiting across the
country, as well as a boost in most property crimes and minor offences such
as mischief and disturbing the peace.

Of the more than 2.5 million Criminal Code offences reported by police in
2003, 12 per cent were for violent crimes and 51 per cent for property
offences. The remaining 37 per cent were for "other" Criminal Code crimes
such as breach of probation and mischief.

Violent crime rates in Canada remain stable, while the property crime hike
is the first in about 10 years.

With 548 murders nationwide -- one in the Yukon -- last year, Canada's
homicide rate dropped 6.6 per cent, the lowest it's been in more than 35
years. There were 34 fewer murders reported last year than in 2002.

There were small increases in attempted murders and robberies last year.

The violent crime rate has generally declined since the early 1990s after
climbing throughout most of the three previous decades, falling 11 per cent
since 1993.

The national sexual assault rate declined five per cent to its lowest level
in almost 20 years.

Slightly fewer than 23,000 "Level 1" sexual assaults, the least serious form
of this offence, were reported. There were 361 sex assaults involving a
weapon, and a further 180 such assaults were classified as aggravated.

More than 84,000 Canadian youth were charged with criminal offences in 2003,
while a further 100,000 involved in criminal incidents were "cleared

An incident is cleared otherwise when police have enough evidence to lay a
charge, but process the youth through other means such as a Crown caution or
extrajudicial sanctions, or informal methods such as a police warning or a
referral to a community program.

The national youth crime rate, for young people ages 12 to 17, went up five
per cent last year, the third increase in four years.

Youth violent crime was up three per cent, also the third increase in four
years. Increases were in the areas of homicide, attempted murder and
assault. Youth crime numbers in sexual assault and robbery were down.

The youth crime rate for property offences, including break-ins and thefts
under $5,000 were up.

Led largely by a decrease in reported marijuana possession, the overall drug
rate in Canada dropped 8.1 per cent. In 2003, there were 85,953 drug crimes

Of those, 60,670 involved pot, for possession (41,237 incidents, which was
down 17.6 per cent), for trafficking (10,300 incidents, down 6.4 per cent
from 2002) and for importation (684 incidents, down 33.2 per cent). Growing
marijuana was the only category that was up for that drug, with a slight
increase of 3.3 per cent.

Overall, the rate of marijuana incidents in Canada was 192 per 100,000
residents. Simple pot possession counts for about half of all drug crimes in

The drop in the marijuana-related offences, according to Statistics Canada,
may have been in part as a result of "a climate of uncertainty" among police
given recent court rulings that question the constitutionality of current
possession laws.

As well, noted Statistics Canada, the federal government introduced
legislation in 2003 to decriminalize possession of small amounts of

Heroin incidents -- 655 total in Canada -- were down 17.4 per cent, while
cocaine offences (13,938) were up 8.5 per cent.

The national drunk driving rate fell five per cent last year, continuing a
downward trend over the last two decades. Police caught about 77,000
impaired people behind the wheel in 2003.
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