Nelson is experiencing the city’s lowest crime rate in over two decades.
Annual data released by Statistics Canada shows Nelson’s crime severity index (CSI), which measures Criminal Code violations weighted by seriousness of offences, fell to a score of 70.35 for 2021. That is the lowest such score since 1998 when Statistics Canada began using the measurement.
Nelson’s CSI score is below the provincial score of 92.86 and the national score of 73.7. Lethbridge, Alta., had the highest CSI score among Canadian municipalities at 128.7.
The city’s violent crime severity index, which measures violent crimes weighted by their severity, also fell to a 10-year low of 55.94. The total number of violent incidents was 149, which is essentially unchanged for the last five years.
The Nelson Police Department’s Chief Donovan Fisher said he thinks the cooperation between law enforcement and local social service providers has made an impact on crime in the city.
“A lot of our partners in the community I think are doing a good job at dealing with a number of the street issues early on, and either capturing it at the lowest level or preventing it from happening. So I think we’re seeing the effects of good community partnerships and working together on things.”
The department responded to a 24-year low of 863 incidents, which Statistics Canada defines “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.”
Incidents don’t include calls that aren’t crime reports or are considered unfounded, which includes investigations that end with offences found to have never happened or not attempted (there were 16 unfounded incidents in Nelson last year).
Fisher said calls for mental health support also aren’t included and cautioned against the assumption that police may not be as active because reported incidents are declining.
The department charged 132 people with crimes in 2021, which was also the lowest number for Nelson since 1998. Of those, no youth were charged for the first time in a decade.
The decrease in criminal activity, Fisher said, may also be related to initiatives that attempt to keep offenders out of court.
“There’s been more of an appetite between ourselves and the Crown and Restorative Justice to look at alternative ways of dealing with offenders,” said Fisher.
“I also think there’s been a lot more work with Street Outreach and The Hub and Nelson CARES and some of the some of the NGOs in the community that may have either had an alternative way of dealing with an issue or maybe even a more preventative outcome.”
Other 2021 stats of note include:
• There were 18 total drug violations, a 10-year low and down from 32 the previous year. Ten people were charged with drug crimes, and of those, just three faced charges of trafficking an opioid other than heroin.
• Traffic violation incidents were also recorded at the lowest number since 2015. There were 49 incidents, down from 57 the previous year. From those incidents 11 people were charged, which is typical for Nelson over the last decade.
• Assaults against peace officers fell to eight last year from 10 in 2020.
• The Nelson Police Department had the second highest weighted clearance rate among B.C.’s 11 municipal forces, behind only Central Saanich but well ahead of other departments such as Vancouver and Abbotsford.
The 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.
The drop in Nelson’s crime is a contrast to a rise in CSI scores across the West Kootenay.
Trail leads the region with the highest CSI at 124.79, which rose from 2020 but was still below the 2019 mark of 140.58. Castlegar’s score of 114.70 was its highest since 2008 while Creston increased to 103.56.
Grand Forks and Boundary also saw its score rise to 82.92, followed by Salmo (84.05) and Kaslo (64.69).
Crime also rose in the rural area around Nelson.
The Nelson RCMP’s CSI score was 43.11, its highest since 2005. The detachment had 539 recorded incidents, down slightly from 544 in 2020 which was a 10-year high. Of those, 45 people were charged.
There were also 124 violent crime incidents recorded by Nelson RCMP, the most in a decade.