Tri-Cities’ crime severity index has dropped by more than 50% since the 1990s

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The Tri-Cities have gotten safer over the past couple decades – even if it doesn’t feel that way.

Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody have seen sizable reductions in both violent and non-violent crime rates over a 23 year period, according to data released by Statistics Canada.

The same trend is evident in many cities and several countries, according to Simon Fraser University criminology professor Martin Andresen.

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“We’ve been having a crime drop going on in the western world . . . for upwards of 30 years,” he said.

The crime severity index weighs different crimes based on their relative seriousness to calculate a crime rate per 100,000 residents. Seriousness is derived from sentences handed down by the courts. When the system was first devised, a murder was judged 1,000 times more serious than marijuana possession. The rates are adjusted every five years.

Over a 23-year span, the crime severity index dropped by approximately 65 percent in Port Moody.

The City of the Arts recorded a crime severity index of 110.86 in 1998 – a higher rate than Vancouver’s crime severity index in 2021.

Despite fluctuations including a 25 percent drop in 2013 and a 26 percent increase in 2019, Port Moody’s crime severity index has been winding down since the late 1990s.

In 2021, Port Moody’s crime severity index fell to 37.84.

The top bar represents the city’s crime severity index in 1998. The bar underneath represents that index in 2021.

The drop in violent crime was smaller, moving from 54.93 to 38.53 from 1998 to 2021.

The same trend showed up in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, where the crime severity index fell by 55 and 53 percent, respectively. In both cities, the drop in non-violent crime was far greater than the drop in violent crime.

Coquitlam’s crime severity index hit a high of 141.73 in 2003. However, the rate has ticked down ever since, falling below 90 in 2008. Coquitlam’s crime severity index was listed at 57.50 in 2021.

In Port Coquitlam, the crime severity index rose to a high of 163.2 in 2002. By 2009, the crime severity index fell below 90. As of 2021, the crime severity index in Port Coquitlam was 58.49.

Among major Canadian cities, Lethbridge, Alta., topped the crime severity index with a rate of 128.65. On the other end of the scale, Toronto, Ont. was one of Canada’s safest cities based on its crime severity index of 45.45.

People don’t feel safe

Coquitlam recently approved a funding increase to pay for five new RCMP officers.

Discussing the budget recently, Coun. Craig Hodge explained “some people may not feel as safe as they used to.”

“I wish that we could have hired the 11 officers that our officer-in-charge believes that we need, but this is a start,” Hodge said.

A 2014 survey found that about three quarters of Canadians felt neighbourhood crime had remained the same for the previous five years. Approximately 11 percent felt crime had increased while nine percent felt it had decreased.


There have been increases in the crime rate at various points in the last few decades. However, when it comes to crimes such as assault causing bodily harm, “the trend is completely flat,” Andresen said.

Some people may feel unsafe after being inundated with crime stories in the media, he added.

“It makes good news,”

Andresen also blamed some police departments and political parties for stoking fear around crime.

“There’s been a lot of fear mongering that’s been going on by right wing municipal parties and also by police services.”

However, there’s “very little evidence” that putting more officers on the ground impacts crime rates, he said.

“What that tends to do is criminalize the poor, criminalize the marginalized,” he said, adding that some research has shown the money would be better spent on social services.

Reason for the drop?

A possible explanation for the decreasing crime rate is the rise in reliable security, according to Andresen.

Besides better locks and better doors in houses, cars are more secure than they used to be.

“With electronic immobilizers, you literally cannot steal a vehicle unless you have the key,” Andresen said.

There’s some research to suggest that the reduction in auto theft has meant fewer criminals making transition into violent crime.

“People typically start with property crime first and then move into violent crime,” he said.

“It’s a good hypothesis

While it’s difficult to test that theory, it’s a good hypothesis, according to Andresen.

Across Canada, the crime severity index ticked up by about seven percent between 2017 and 2019 before dropping seven percent in 2020. The rate remained stable from 2020 to 2021, falling by approximately 0.3 percent.

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