OTTAWA - Police-reported crime continued to decline in 2008, Statistics Canada said in a report Tuesday. But a steadily dropping crime rate will not deter the federal Conservative government from cracking down on criminal activities, says Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.
Both the traditional crime rate, and Statistics Canada’s so-called crime severity index, fell five per cent last year as the volume of police-reported crime and its average severity decreased. Still, the Tories will continue to press the opposition parties in the House of Commons to pass anti-crime legislation when Parliament resumes in the fall, says Nicholson.
“We don’t govern on the latest statistics," the minister told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview.
“What level it’s at right now, it’s unacceptable, and we are committed to disrupting ...criminal activity."
Violent crime also dropped in 2008, but to a lesser extent than the overall decline.
There were about 77,000 fewer reported crimes in 2008, including 28,000 fewer thefts of $5,000 and under, 22,000 fewer break-ins and 20,000 fewer motor-vehicle thefts, StatsCan reported.
Crime severity was down in virtually all provinces, with the largest decline reported in Manitoba.
However, Manitoba continued to have the highest homicide rate among provinces in 2008. That prompted the province’s attorney general Tuesday to promise to hire more police, and to take action to target the worst offenders. Manitoba’s murder rate was 50 per cent higher than second-place Alberta.
And despite a 44 per cent drop in vehicle theft, Winnipeg continues to have the highest rate of stolen automobiles in Canada.
The one notable exception to the reduced overall crime rates was a seven per cent increase on Prince Edward Island.
About one in five crimes reported to police is violent. There were 3,500 fewer reported violent incidents in 2008, including 2,000 fewer robberies.
Homicides, which make up less than one per cent of violent crime, were one of the few violent crimes to increase in 2008.
The police-reported crime rate for youth aged 12 to 17 fell five per cent in 2008, the fourth decline in five years. The youth violent crime rate, which declined three per cent, has been relatively stable since 2000.
The minority Conservatives in Ottawa have been pushing their anti-crime agenda hard this spring, introducing 11pieces of legislation. Just one of the bills passed, increasing penalties for people convicted of gang-related murders.
Nicholson noted his anti-drug legislation saw only a couple of days of debate in the Senate before parliamentarians left Ottawa for the summer.
“I was very disappointed about that," said Nicholson.
“(The bill would have imposed) mandatory jail terms for people who, for instance, are bringing drugs into this country."