Abbotsford-Mission records 15 per cent hike in crime rate

Annual national crime figures released by Statistics Canada

Police were in the area of Promontory Court and Ridgeview Drive in September 2015 following the fatal shooting Ping Shun Ao

Crime rates are up in the Abbotsford-Mission census metropolitan area (CMA) for the second consecutive year, but police in both communities say measures have already been taken to reduce those numbers.

The annual figures, released Wednesday by Statistics Canada, report the crime severity index (CSI) and the crime rate for 33 CMAs across Canada for 2015.

The Abbotsford-Mission CMA was the fifth highest in the nation both for crime rate and CSI.

The area recorded 7,452 Criminal Code offences per 100,000 population in 2015, compared to the national average of 5,198 and the provincial average of 7,844. The local rate rose 15 per cent over 2014.

The area’s crime severity index (CSI) – which is a figure based on the number of crimes reported and the severity of each offence – was up 14 per cent from 2014. The figure, 96.6, is higher than the national average of 69.7 and the provincial average of 94.7.

The numbers, broken down further, separate the two communities from one another. Abbotsford’s CSI for 2015 is 87.3 (up 16.7 per cent over 2014), while Mission’s is 130.8 (a nine per cent increase).

Both communities also recorded increases in their non-violent CSI (up 15 in Abbotsford and 13 per cent in Mission).

However, although Abbotsford recorded a hike of 21 per cent in its violent CSI, Mission’s dropped by three per cent.

Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald said the department was not surprised that the crime stats were up locally in 2015, as analysts track the numbers on a daily basis to be aware of ongoing problems.

Last year, these stats began showing an increase in property crimes – a problem that MacDonald said can be difficult to pinpoint before the stats start building up.

These crimes often increase when a prolific offender is released from prison or moves to the community from another area.

But MacDonald said once police in Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission noticed there was an issue, they responded by forming Project Valley Sweep to target these offenders. In the first three weeks of the project alone, officers checked on 160 people from a list of repeat offenders and made 34 arrests.

He said another factor hiking Abbotsford’s stats in 2015 – particularly in the area of violent crimes – was the ongoing Townline Hill conflict, involving two gangs battling over drug turf.

The battle has resulted in several assaults, drive-by shootings and the murder last September of innocent man Ping Shun Ao, 74, who was killed by a stray bullet intended for his neighbour.

MacDonald said police have responded by increasing patrols and enforcement in the areas of the violence, installing multiple video cameras in neighbourhoods, and holding public awareness forums.

He said these steps towards fighting property offences and violent crimes should see the numbers drop by the time next year’s CSI stats are released.

“With a concerted effort, we hope it’s a significant reduction.”

Insp. Ted De Jager, the officer in charge of the Mission RCMP detachment, said Mission’s CSI increased in 2015 primarily because of a rise in property crime – a trend similar to what has been experienced throughout the Fraser Valley.

But he said the detachment undertook several initiatives to tackle the problem, and so far has seen a three per cent drop in property crime this year, as well as a 10 per cent decline in violent crime.

De Jager said the community’s primary crime concerns continue to be theft from auto, fraud, and business break-ins. Violent crime remains less than five per cent of the detachment’s overall calls for service, he added.

The highest crime rate in the country for 2015 was Saskatoon (8,427), followed by Kelowna (8,170) and Regina (8,146). The lowest was Toronto (2,892).

The three CMAs recording the highest CSIs were Saskatoon (112.5), Regina (107.6) and Edmonton (101.6). The lowest was Quebec (41.8).