Abbotsford is Canada's theft capital


Abbotsford is the property-crime capital of Canada, with more property offences per capita than any other major city in the country, according to figures released Thursday by Statistics Canada.


Abbotsford is the property-crime capital of Canada, with more property offences per capita than any other major city in the country, according to figures released Thursday by Statistics Canada.

Overall, Greater Abbotsford (which includes Mission) recorded 11,953 property offences in 2005 -- such as break-ins, motor vehicle thefts and thefts from autos.

That works out to a rate of 7,337 per 100,000 residents -- giving Abbotsford the highest property-crime rate of Canada's 27 major cities, beating out second-place Regina, at 7,061, and third-place Vancouver at 6,501.

This is the first time that Abbotsford has topped the property-crime rankings since it became large enough to be included in them in 2001.

Abbotsford police spokesman Const. Casey Vinet said the city's rapid transformation from rural community to bustling suburb has brought its share of crime.

"As we continue to grow, there's a need to catch up -- and we recognize that," said Vinet.

He said the police department has roughly doubled in size to about 190 since the early 1990s and hired 15 new officers last year alone.

It recently created two positions to crack down on auto thefts and has added resources to its crime analysis section.

"We want to better understand where the [crime] hotspots are in the community so we can target those areas," he said.

Vinet also noted that Abbotsford's property-crime rate actually dropped 6.5 per cent in 2005. (However, other city's rates dropped more, putting Abbotsford at the top of the list.)

"Certainly there's room for improvement . . . [but] it shows that some progress is being made," he said.

Moe Gill, a city councillor, said Abbotsford remains a safe community.

"We do have break-ins and small thefts and stuff like that," he said. "[But] I really don't hear that many complaints from the public."

Greater Abbotsford includes some smaller communities and rural areas surrounding the city, but the bulk of the area's population -- about 75 per cent -- is in the city of Abbotsford itself.

While Abbotsford topped the property-crime rankings, the worst city for violent crime was Regina, followed by Saskatoon and Halifax.

Abbotsford was the sixth-most violent city and Vancouver came eighth.

Thursday's figures also showed that Greater Vancouver -- which includes the city and its suburbs -- experienced a significant decline in auto thefts last year.

Greater Vancouver still has one of the worst stolen-car problems in the country -- with rates of auto theft more than three times that of Toronto.

But things are slowly starting to improve.

The rate of motor vehicle thefts in Greater Vancouver dropped 13.4 per cent in 2005.

That was the biggest drop in any of Canada's nine largest metropolitan areas. And it comes after another major decline the year before.

In total, in the past two years alone, Greater Vancouver's auto theft rate has dropped by more than one-fifth (21.5 per cent), from 1,261 per 100,000 residents in 2003 to 990 in 2005.

Det. David Bruce-Thomas, head of the Vancouver police bait car program, said the figures suggest police efforts to crack down on auto crime are working.

He noted that in June 2001, about 600 cars were stolen in the city of Vancouver alone.

Last month, that was down more than half -- to 264.

Bruce-Thomas said the bait car program has been so successful in scaring thieves that police stings now take much longer than they used to.

"The irony of the bait car program is the better job we do, the harder it is to get our cars stolen," he said.

And while police often criticize B.C. judges for their leniency, Bruce-Thomas said he's been impressed by the one- and two-year sentences handed out to thieves caught by his program.

"I can say that, with my bait car experience, the judges have been fabulous," he said.

Thursday's report showed overall crime rates were down five per cent nationwide in 2005 -- with property crime reaching its lowest level in 30 years.

One of the few exceptions was homicides, which were up four per cent nationwide, to 658.

B.C. was one of only three provinces to buck that trend -- recording 15 fewer killings than it did the year before.

However, homicides were up slightly in Greater Vancouver, from 56 in 2004 to 62 in 2005.

- - -


Statistics Canada released its annual crime statistics for 2005 on Thursday. Some of the interesting findings include:

- While violent crime is more common in the U.S., property crime is more prevalent in Canada. For example, the U.S. homicide rate is nearly three times higher than in Canada and robberies are 59 per cent more common. Meanwhile, Canada has 18 per cent more break-ins per capita and 26 per cent more auto thefts.

- B.C. has the highest rate of drug offences in the country

-- with nearly twice as many drug crimes per capita as second-place Saskatchewan.

- Counterfeiting offences dropped 20 per cent nationwide in 2005, the first major decrease in five years. The drop may be due to the introduction of new security features on the $20 bill.

- Youth crime dropped six per cent in 2005 to its lowest level since 1999.

- B.C. has the second-highest crime rate among the provinces, after Saskatchewan. Ontario has the lowest crime rate. All three territories have higher crime rates than the provinces, with the Northwest Territories leading the pack.


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