Thunder Bay’s top cop isn’t surprised the city has earned the unfortunate title of the murder capital of Canada once again.
With 11 homicides in 2014 — a number Thunder Bay Police Service Chief J.P. Levesque calls “pretty incredible” — the city not only topped the country in murders but also ranked the highest for violent crimes.
Statstics Canada released its 2014 Crime Severity Index on Wednesday and ranked Thunder Bay fourth on the overall index for police-reported crimes for census metropolitan areas with a population over 100,000; that’s an increase of 10 per cent from 2013.
Saskatoon tops the list followed by Regina and Vancouver.
Nationally, this is the 11th consecutive year the national crime rate has decreased and Ontario ranked the lowest on the crime severity index, while Quebec has the lowest crime rate.
In the homicide category, Thunder Bay had triple the rate when compared to Winnipeg and Edmonton to make it No. 1.
Levesque said the murders are what shot the city to the top in violent crimes and how to prevent the incidents is the $1-million question.
“Homicides are almost impossible to predict unless you’re doing wire taps,” he said, adding the cases they investigated last year were crimes of passion or heat-of-the-moment scenarios where the accused and victim were known to each other.
Property crimes and other non-violent crimes can often be prevented with educational campaigns. Levesque said violent crime prevention is difficult because they can happen within residences and not somewhere where police would be able to intervene.
Thunder Bay also ranked third for robberies and ninth for break and enters.
The police chief said drug and alcohol addiction, poverty and homelessness are some of the many contributing factors for high crime severity index rating.
Where Thunder Bay scored well was in their crime clearance rates as the local police service is 12 points above the national average.
“I fully recognize that’s little solace to the victims of crime or the victims of violent crime or the families who remain,” Levesque said. “But it’s pretty impressive.”
The chief credits the local force for their dedication, espeically given they don’t have a large criminal investigations branch.
“When you get 11 homicides in a year, you’re going to get detectives who have more than one homicide investigation on their plate at any given time,” he said. “It’s difficult.”
The detective also has to follow the case through the court process and it continues to be taxing, added Levesque.
Thunder Bay had its first homicide this year in June when 22-year-old Larissa Charlie-Stillway died as a result of injuries sustained in an assault at Totem Trailer Court.
Cruz Pelletier, 18, of Fort William First Nation is facing charges of second-degree murder in connection with the incident.