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A Portrait of Crime

Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 27/06) - Beginning this week News/North will examine crime in the NWT. Four regional features will focus on a Statistics Canada report indicating Northerners are three times more likely to be victims of crime than their southern counterparts.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Sergeant Charlie Gauthier and Cst. Chris Pittman stand with nearly a pound of marijuana, which police said a Tuktoyaktuk man was carrying Nov. 12. - photo courtesy of Tuktoyaktuk RCMP

Crime stats:

Statistics represent all three northern territories unless otherwise stated.

  • Northern residents three-time more likely to be victims of crime.
  • Spousal abuse. NWT 12 per cent - South seven per cent - Nunavut 22 per cent.
  • Total crime rate four times the national average. (Includes victimless crimes.)
  • 80 per cent of northern victims knew the perpetrator - 56 per cent in the South.
  • 61 per cent of violent crime involved drug or alcohol.
  • 43 per cent of Northerners were injured as a result of violent crime - South 25 per cent.
  • Women more likely to be injured in the North 59 per cent compared to 32 per cent for men.
  • Estimated that 88 per cent of sex assault, 69 per cent of household thefts and 67 per cent of personal property thefts were not reported.

  • Factors in crime

    Statscan reports the following as major factors in crime and victimization.

  • Youthful population. Average age in the NWT is 29 compared to 35 to 40 in South.
  • Single parent homes. NWT 20 per cent - South 15 per cent.
  • Common-law families. NWT 26 per cent - South 13 per cent.
  • Unemployment. NWT 9.5 per cent - South 7.4 per cent.
  • Aboriginal population. NWT 51 per cent - South highest 14 per cent (Saskatchewan).
  • The report, titled Victimization and Canada's Territories, delivers data gathered via telephone surveys with Northern residents and statistics gathered by RCMP on reported crimes.

    General findings indicate that "Northern residents experience higher rates of violent victimization and are more likely to be victims of spousal violence than residents in the rest of Canada. Furthermore, police reported crime rates in the North are much higher than those in the provinces," the report reads.

    Researchers point to a number of factors prevalent in Northern communities that have been associated with increased rates of crime and increased rates of victimization.

    Included are a younger population, a higher rate of single parent homes, more common-law families, high rates of unemployment and being of aboriginal descent.

    Each of those factors are based on previous studies conducted between 1998 and 2006.

    During News/North interviews with Northern residents, one theme was continuously stated as the most significant contributor to crime and violence.

    Abuse of alcohol and drugs was the main concern. It was such a systemic issue that Staff Sgt. Craig Seafoot, RCMP commander for the South District of the NWT, told News/North, "If we didn't have drugs and alcohol in the area, no police officers would be needed."

    He went on to say that the North has been a victim of its own success. Economic growth, spurred by resource development, has brought more money to the North creating a market for harder, more expensive drugs.

    Substance abuse was not the only issue Northerners attributed to crime.

    Chief Berna Landry, of the Deh Gah Got'ie Koe First Nation in Fort Providence, pointed to changes in aboriginal traditional lifestyle as a source for criminal behaviour.

    She said in the past young people spent their days on the land hunting and gathering and when they returned home at night spent their evenings resting. She added today youth have little to do and boredom leads to crime.

    Her solutions are more recreation programs and more parental involvement to help young people make healthy choices.

    Anne Marie McGuire, the director of health and social programs for Liidlii Kue First Nation, said communities must combat family violence, and also substance abuse, which have become normalized behaviour.

    Despite the seriousness of the issues, there were some positives in the report. Generally Northerners reported they felt safer in their communities than their southern counterparts did. According to Tuktoyaktuk RCMP Sgt. Charlie Gauthier, that is an advantage of living in a small town.

    "I guess if you look at the difference in solving crimes, the solving rate in a smaller place (like Tuktoyaktuk) is often 70 or 80 per cent. In a big Southern centre, you would not get that," said Sgt. Gauthier.

    Despite feeling safer, the report goes on to indicate that Northerners were less likely to report they felt police were doing a good job at enforcing laws and ensuring public safety. Fort Good Hope Chief Ron Pierrot, who reports being a victim of crime, said police are not solely responsible for safety in a community.

    Pierrot said, "You can't just point a finger at the RCMP. It involves the entire community - it's all our problem. We need more awareness...When people see a crime, they need to report it."

    Over the next month watch for continued coverage of this issue as we speak to Northerners about crime and their communities

    - with files from Philippe Morin, Erika Sherk, John Curran, Roxanna Thompson and Chris Puglia.