Increase in child pornography reports in B.C., and Vancouver in particular, partially offset Canada's decrease in crime
A report from Statistics Canada suggests that while many types of violent crime decreased in British Columbia last year, that dip measured on its Criminal Severity Index was partially offset by a rise in reports of incidents involving child pornography.
The federal agency set about to catalogue the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, looking at factors including the economy, health-care system and Canadian's social lives.
Read more on what its wastewater survey suggests about use of drugs in Canada in our previous coverage.
According to a report posted Tuesday, B.C.'s CSI was measured in 2020 at 95.7, down 8.3 per cent from 2019.
It's about the same decrease as was seen in the country as a whole, StatCan data showed. The measure has been tracked in Canada since the late 1990s, and is meant to indicate the severity and volume of police-reported crime with the baseline of the CSI value 100 established in 2006.
A decrease may not mean that crime was down, or that it decreased to the level noted in the CSI, as the metric is reliant on victims filing police reports.
Still, it is believed the pandemic may have resulted in lower rates of crime in part due to stay-at-home orders, business closures and other related factors that reduced the opportunity.
While not finalized, early data suggests a similar effect will be noted in 2021.
The latest report suggests the number of police-reported crimes in Canada was down overall last year – the first decrease noted in five years – but reports of some incidents, including hate crimes, still rose.
Another noted increase in 2020 is in incidents involving child pornography.
CHILD PORNOGRAPHY REPORTS IN B.C.
In the country as a whole, StatCan says, the rate of police-reported child pornography was up 23 per cent last year.
There were 2,178 more incidents reported in Canada in 2020 than in the year before.
"Circumstances of the pandemic have been noted as potentially exacerbating the conditions for victimization, especially with children and youth spending more time online," the StatCan report says.
And the majority of incidents were in two provinces: Quebec and British Columbia.
Quebec saw an increase in incidents of 30 per cent year-over-year. In B.C., that increase was 44 per cent.
According to StatCan, there were 1,465 more incidents in B.C. last year than were reported to police in 2019.
Looking just at Metro Vancouver, there were 870 more child pornography-related reports last year than the year before. The metropolitan area with the next highest increase was Montreal, with 351 more than in 2019.
Crime overall was down in B.C., especially due to decreases in theft, breaking and entering, shoplifting, fraud and vehicle theft. However, this decrease was partially offset by the increase in reports related to child pornography.
REASONS FOR THE INCREASE
The statistics may be alarming to parents and guardians, but it's possible that at least some of that increase isn't because possession or trafficking is becoming more common, but because it's being reported more often.
The National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet received funding for an expansion in 2019, and some of the money was earmarked for awareness campaigns.
In B.C. specifically, StatCan cites a software being used by the B.C. Behavioural Sciences Group's Integrated Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit as a possible reason why reporting is high in the province.
This software can identify computers used in B.C. to access or share child porn.
In the country as a whole last year there were 7,200 cybercrime-related child pornography violations, StatCan says, up 34 per cent from 5,375 the year before.
B.C. CITIES' CRIME SEVERITY INDEX
Canada as a whole emerged from 2020 with a CSI of 73.4, down eight per cent from its 2019 ranking. Its crime rate saw a larger decrease of 10 per cent, with the rate measured at 5,301 per 100,000 population.
StatCan provided information by province, but also broke down its data by metropolitan area.
Of the four B.C. metro areas included, Kelowna had the highest CSI at 111.9.
Vancouver was next with a CSI at 88.6, followed by Abbotsford-Mission (77.2) and Victoria (75.8).
All four cities saw a decrease in crime rates, but the Victoria area was one of the few in Canada to earn an increased CSI last year.
All four cities saw CSIs higher than the Canadian average, but they were not the highest in the country.
Crime was considered more severe or frequent than Kelowna in Winnipeg and Lethbridge, Alta.
See the full ranking on StatCan's website.
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