Thursday, March 13, 2008

No city for weak men or women!

Prince George has joined a list that they won’t be very proud of, in fact it could be the kind of place that Tony Soprano would feel at home in. The self described Northern Capital, can now add a new branding or positioning statement to it’s resume, that of British Columbia’s most violent city.

Maclean’s Magazine published a list of statistics today that won’t be showing up on the tourism brochures, nor make it to the information packages distributed by the city’s Economic Development Department.

The Maclean’s survey using data from 2006 has Prince George in fourth place overall, well off the pace of third place Winnipeg, but significantly ahead of fifth place Edmonton when it comes to the home of the undesirable element of city life. The survey examined the crime statistics of cities of 50,000 in population and above to determine the rankings. Which fortunately for Prince Rupert City Council leaves them off the hook for any bad press for the next little while. Out of sight, out of mind and not on the national charts and not having to answer any subsequent questions of this survey.

However, for British Columbians in general it's not a flattering portrait of a province, as the numbers show that this one very dangerous province. Of the top ten crime markets in the country BC counts half of the cities named, Prince George is number one in the province, while New Westminster is number six, Chilliwack number seven, Victoria number eight and Vancouver number five.

Everyone’s crime statistic favourite Surrey barely made it into the top fifteen of crime cities; as the suburban Vancouver city posted fourteenth place overall, Eighth in BC after Burnaby and Kamloops snuck in just above it, a rude push that we’re sure they don’t mind in Surrey. But it’s the high level of crime in Prince George that will have northerners talking, as Prince George picked up top ten placings in five of the six categories used to deliver the statistics.

Of all of the communities in Canada, Prince George was third in aggravated assault, fifth in Motor vehicle thefts, sixth in sexual assaults, seventh in break and enters and eighth in robbery. Only in the murder category was there a bit of relief, as the city ranked forty seventh when it comes to killing each other.

Needless to say, the rebuttals have already begun; Opinion 250 posted a story shortly after the statistics came out, quoting RCMP Superintendent Dahl Chambers as reminding readers that the stats were two years old. While not rejecting the magazines findings out of hand, he said that the numbers can be skewed by any number of factors.

He is hopeful that Prince George’s numbers will be reduced by this time next year, based on the recent addition of a crime analyst to the city’s detachment who will hopefully shed some light on areas of concern in the city. Some residents point out on the Opinion 250 message boards that the bulk of the crime stats most likely come from one particular area of town, which in itself skews the numbers for the city.

Understandable of a community that is probably a little in shock with their sudden and unwanted notoriety. Regardless of the spin, interpretation or denial though, until the next survey comes around Prince George will be known as BC’s most violent community. And a quick glance at the archives from Opinion 250, the Prince George Citizen or the Prince George Free Press won’t do much to change that impression.

Maclean's resources on the story:

The most dangerous cities in Canada
Crunching the numbers
Taking back the neighbourhood
Where you can't get away with anything

Prince George coverage of their newfound status:

Opinion 250--Prince George 4th On List of Worst Cities for Crime
Opinion 250--P.G. Superintendent Says Crime Numbers Out Dated
CBC News--Prince George no crime hot spot, RCMP officer says
PG Citizen--Crime rate ranks fourth in Canada

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