Canada’s most easterly province is still a pretty safe place.
After a particularly sensational crime residents of St. John’s might claim the city is descending into chaos, but according to experts that isn’t the case.
Adrienne Peters, a criminologist who teaches the police studies program at Memorial University, says the crime rate is going down.
“It has been steadily going down across the board in North America, Canada, and Newfoundland for several years,” said Peters.
Although the crime rate rose slightly in 2018 compared to 2017, in Newfoundland and Labrador it has decreased since 2013.
The overall crime rate includes all types of crime from murder to shoplifting to vandalism. It is calculated by dividing the number of reported crimes by the total population, and the results are then multiplied by 100,000. For example, in 2013 there were 22,057 reported Criminal Code violations, according to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Annual Juristat Report. The total population for that year was 527,114 meaning the crime rate was 4,184 per 100,000 general population.
The crime rate in 2015 was 3,762. In 2017, which is the latest numbers available, it was 3,475.
Const. James Cadigan is the media relations officer for the RNC. He says awareness is a contributing factor when it comes to decreasing crime rates.
“We really focus on education and awareness when it comes to property crimes,” said Cadigan.
“The increase of the prominence of CCTV footage, everybody has a cellphone these days, dash camera footage. They’re great deterrents.”
People are less likely to commit a crime, he says, because of surveillance cameras.
Public perception of media reports and social media chatter plays a big role, she says, as to why people think crime rate is increasing in St. John’s.
“I think that often times these stories tend to be the ones that draw a lot of attention from the public,” she said.
“People are trying to be as safe and also [as] knowledgeable as they can about their communities and where they live. And so, part of that then goes in with crime. People tend to have a fascination with crime and offending.
“I think then the media tends to focus on those stories. Especially here in St. John’s and Newfoundland.”
“It’s a perception that [the crime rate] is increasing,”
– Adrienne Peters
Peters says she has lived in a few different provinces in Canada, and also around the world. She finds that crime seems to be more popular in the news in Newfoundland and Labrador than in other places she has worked.
“Perhaps because it is still a place that has a lot of smaller communities, and we still have that community-oriented feeling and we want to maintain that … the notion of what crime is kind of counters that feeling of safety,” Peters said.
The constant news cycle paired with the public’s perception of their neighborhood feeds into the fear of increasing crime, says Peters.
She also mentions that more often than not the public only hears about the arrest. The public, she says, doesn’t usually hear about the court case, the trial, or the cases that have been withdrawn.
In order to feel a little safer in your community, it’s important for people to ask questions and get to know the people around them, say Peters.
“It’s a perception that [the crime rate] is increasing when it’s actually not for the large part.”