Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hookers and Blow in Fort Crack?

One thing I get asked about living here is the crime rate.  It's not really something I like to talk about or really think about, not because I want to ignore or whitewash things but simply because I've found the stereotype annoying and removed from the reality of my everyday life.  I'm not naive enough to think that we inhabit a perfect world or that this city isn't without its challenges.  But for the most part, I tend to find out about illicit happenings here pretty much like everyone else in this country....by reading it in the news.  In my 4 years year I can say I've never seen a drug deal go down or a hooker, even in those parts of town in which they supposedly exist, thus feeding into the old "hookers and blow" notion.

Other than a friend of an old tenant a couple of years ago who had sticky fingers, I've had it really good and I've only really heard things second hand or, as I mentioned above, by reading about it in the news.    Still, it was frustrating trying to explain to someone about the stereotypes here with no statistics to back me up.....until now. A study, commissioned by the municipality, by Simon Fraser University criminology professor, Neil Boyd and recently released, sheds some interesting light on this topic.  Actually, what he discovered by analyzing 10 years' worth of crime stats flies in the face of what most people think when it come to crime in Fort McMurray.  Many categories of crime here are in steep decline and are in fact at a lower level than provincial and national averages.  I have to admit to being a bit of surprised myself, if only because I constantly here in the media how my city is awash with hookers and blow.  Consider some of the key findings...


* The rate of break-entry-theft in the region is substantially below provincial and national rates. It is approximately one-third of the Albertan and Canadian rates, with 172 incidents per 100,000 population, while Alberta had 513 and Canada had 504.
* The rate of robbery is well below provincial and national averages: Wood Buffalo had 55 incidents per 100,000 population, while Alberta had 71 and Canada had 79.
* The rate of sexual assault is well below provincial and national averages: Wood Buffalo had 44 incidents per 100,000 population, while Alberta had 75 and Canada had 63.
* The rate of cannabis distribution is substantially below provincial and national averages: Wood Buffalo had 12 incidents per 100,000 population, while Alberta had 33 and Canada had 45.
* The rate of prostitution is nearly identical to provincial and national averages: Wood Buffalo had seven incidents per 100,000 population, while Alberta had eight and Canada had six. 


As Boyd also notes, one big reason per capita crime stats here can appear so inflated is because publications like Maclean's use incorrect population figures.  The municipality's population figures include a rather large transient population in the many camps here while Stats Canada does not.  This of course inflates the per capita figures considerably.  Our population according to Stats Canada is around 65,000 while the municipality pegs it around 116,000.  The municipality includes our transient population in its totals because our camp population, while not living here permanently, also use local medical and social services and other infrastructure. At any rate, Boyd's findings shed some much needed light on this issue.  Media such as Chatelaine, GQ and Maclean's have in the past, painted a very different picture of what I see and experience everyday and its refreshing to see another side to the story.  Frankly, I feel safer here than in say Toronto or Edmonton.  Sure, some of what I feel is based on stereotypes (I'm just not a fan of big cities in general, plus both their hockey teams are just sad) but much of what tends to be said about Fort McMurray is based on silly stereotypes as well.  In this case, its nice to see that what is sometimes written is not always based in reality.

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