The City of Wetaskiwin will be rated in the top five spots of “Canada’s Most Dangerous Places 2019,” a feature that will appear in Maclean’s Magazine later in November, according to city staff.
Editor’s note: In a Nov. 5 online article, Maclean’s magazine stated “Wetaskiwin’s Crime Severity Index numbers peg it as the most dangerous city in Alberta—and the third most dangerous in the country.”
A press release sent out from the City of Wetaskiwin on Oct. 30 noted that, “Wetaskiwin’s annual Crime Severity Index (CSI) ranking has increased due to several high-profile violent offenses that occurred” over the past year. This increased the municipality’s ranking of eighth in 2018, to “top five” in the Maclean’s Canada’s Most Dangerous Places 2019.
City manager Dave Burgess explained that Maclean’s magazine contacted the City of Wetaskiwin with the information, which ranks communities according to the CSI. The Maclean’s methodology is a “Statistics Canada measure of all police-reported crime, which takes into consideration both the volume and seriousness of offences.”
Burgess was reluctant to state where exactly Wetaskiwin would measure up, as to not “preclude Maclean’s.”
“We are hesitant to say because we wouldn’t want to be wrong,” he said. “We are a few up and it’s safe to say that we are in the top five.”
Burgess attributed the crime index rise to “two homicides” that occurred in the city last year.
“This shot up our numbers in crime severity,” he said. “This could have easily happened somewhere else, but because it happened in the city, it affected the severity index.”
Despite the ranking, Burgess said community safety remains priority. Wetaskiwin city council committed additional RCMP resources in the 2018 budget. Moreover, the city stated that there was an overall decrease in crime from 2017 to 2018.
“We do not have our heads in sand on this and we want to improve the level of safety,” Burgess said.
Bruce Hinkley, NDP MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose, echoed that crime has been going down in the province but that the government has dedicated more resources to the local courts in order for cases to be presented in a timelier manner. He also said that the government has approved a grant for Wetaskiwin’s Victim Services for over $400,000 to be spread over three years.
“Ideally though we wouldn’t have to have those (grants), and the fact that they applied for funding support means it’s probably busy,” Hinkley said.
An RCMP spokesperson noted police know the public is concerned about crime. “Crime reduction is a priority for the Alberta RCMP,” said Cpl. Laurel Scott, on behalf of the RCMP.
“We acknowledge that Albertans are concerned with crime rates in their communities and we also understand that people feel vulnerable and frustrated,” she said.
“Our intelligence-led and focused crime reduction strategy allows us to proactively intervene, reducing calls for service and easing some of the pressures front line members face so that they can focus on operational duties; keeping our communities safe,” Cpl. Scott added.
Calls were made to Wetaskiwin RCMP but no one was available to provide local comment before press deadline.
By Jessica Jones, for the Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer