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Crime in Nelson fell during 2020: Statistics Canada

Annual data shows a five-year low for people charged by the municipal department
The Nelson Police Department. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Crime dropped in Nelson last year according to annual data released by Statistics Canada, but it’s not clear if the pandemic played a role in the decline.

Nelson’s crime severity index (CSI), which measures all Criminal Code violations weighted by seriousness of offence, dropped to a four-year low in 2020 to a score of 83.80.

That score is higher than the national CSI, which also dropped to 73.44, but lower than British Columbia’s over CSI score of 95.71.

The Nelson Police Department (NPD) responded to 1,033 incidents in 2020, which is up slightly over 2019 but essentially average over the previous 10 years. Of those incidents, 165 people were charged with crimes, which is a five-year low.

NPD Chief Donovan Fisher only joined the department in March and said he couldn’t speculate on if the provincial lockdown led to an overall drop in the city’s crime.

But he did note that a similar trend occurred early in the pandemic in central Saskatchewan where he was serving as an RCMP superintendent.

“I would say that you probably have the same downtrend right off the bat in the spring when people not really being sure how contagious or serious it was…,” said Fisher.

“A place that has a fair bit of tourism and travellers coming through probably didn’t see that [decline.] So I’m sure that contributed to the lower numbers as well.”

The Nelson RCMP, meanwhile, responded to a 10-year high of 504 incidents in 2020. But that only resulted in 51 people charged with crimes, a 10-year low.

Nelson RCMP Cpl. Derek Pitt characterized 2020 as a typical year for the detachment.

“I don’t think really through COVID that we’ve seen much change locally in our jurisdiction as far as the types of calls we’re getting or anything like that,” said Pitt.

It’s worth noting that Stats Canada’s definition of an incident is convoluted and can be misleading. When told what the number of incidents reported were, Fisher and Pitt each expressed surprise and stated their numbers should be higher.

Stats Canada later clarified in an email to the Nelson Star that it defines an incident “as a set of connected events usually constituting a police occurrence report. An incident may involve several victims, several CSCs, and multiple violations of the law.”

Those incidents also don’t include anything unfounded, which is described as an investigation finding a reported offence never occurred or was not attempted, and may account for the lower-than-expected local numbers.

Other NPD 2020 stats of note include:

• There were 152 total violent criminal code violations, which is about average for the city.

• Drug violations continue to fall. Police responded to 32 drug-related incidents, a far cry from the 155 in 2013, and 23 people were charged. Both incidents and charges were five-year lows.

• Eight people were charged with trafficking an opioid other than heroin, the most in the city in five years.

• Peace officers were assaulted 10 times, up from four in 2019.

NPD also retains the highest weighted clearance rate among B.C.’s 11 municipal departments.

Weighted clearance rate, which leans towards serious offences, measures the number of cases that end either with an approved charge or an outcome that doesn’t require a courtroom date.

Elsewhere, Trail scored a CSI of 108.98, higher than both the provincial and national marks.

Trail RCMP reported 990 incidents within city limits, which resulted in 150 total people charged. The detachment’s municipal weighted clearance rate was 33.40.

Castlegar also scored a high CSI at 105.34, while its RCMP detachment recorded a 34.61 weighted clearance rate.

Crime appears to have dropped significantly in the Salmo area.

Salmo RCMP responded to 225 incidents, which was a 10-year low and resulted in 52 people charged. Of those incidents, only 28 were related to drug violations, which was also the lowest number in a decade.

Kaslo RCMP, meanwhile, charged 14 people from 120 incidents, while Slocan Lake RCMP responded to 98 incidents with 13 people facing charges.


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Tyler Harper

About the Author: Tyler Harper

I’m editor-reporter at the Nelson Star, where I’ve worked since 2015.
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