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2019 crime spike in B.C. largest in 20 years; RCMP say it’s partly due to changes in stat organizing

Criminal incidents increased in 18 per cent across the province last year

Criminal incidents in British Columbia had the largest increase last year since 1998.

The percentage change per 100,000 people for all criminal code violations increased by just over 18 per cent, which is three times higher than the last highest crime increase in 2003.

Last year, incidents for impaired driving sky-rocked 44 per cent, robberies increased by 13 per cent and criminal harassment shot up by 40 per cent.

However, the RCMP said part of the reason for last year’s crime spike were revisions to the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey on definitions of founded and unfounded incidents.

READ MORE: Non-violent crime, small population contributes to Kelowna’s crime rate spike, says RCMP

Unfounded incidents are incidents that are determined through police investigation that the reported offence did not occur, nor was attempted.

Sergeant Chris Dodds, Revelstoke RCMP, said inconsistent reporting of unfounded incidents led to poor data quality in Canada.

New revisions changed definitions of founded incidents to account for complexities of certain offences such as sexual assault and family violence. For example, unless there is concrete evidence to prove the crime did not happen, it is to be believed that the crime occurred.

Therefore, more files that previously would have been classified as unfounded and not reported to Statistics Canada, are now being recorded, resulting in more criminal incidents.

RCMP said last year’s increase in crime should not be concerning for British Columbians.

While incidents rose the most in 2019, compared to the year prior, there were slightly less than in 1998. The most was 520,560 in 2003.

B.C’s population in 1998 was just below 4 million. By 2019, it was more than 5 million.

Many police detachments across the province are also targeting incidents of impaired driving.

Although incidents of impaired driving went up last year by 44 per cent across B.C., the largest increase since 1998, Dodds said it’s hard to say if incidents of impaired driving are actually increasing, since law enforcement is cracking down on it.

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