Criminologist says Edmonton safer now overall than in 1990s

It seems like violent crime is on the rise in Edmonton - but how does Alberta's capital compare to other cities in Canada when it comes to unprovoked violence? Bianca Millions talks to a criminologist to find out.

As a memorial grows at Belvedere LRT station for a father of seven, there is concern from Edmontonians the city is being swept away in a wave of random violence.

But a criminologist says it’s important not to be overwhelmed by individual events and instead look at the bigger picture.

When doing so, he says, it shows crime isn’t continually on the rise in the long term – despite a particularly violent 2022.

Doug King, a criminal justice professor at Mount Royal University, says Edmonton is far safer than it was in the 1990s, for instance.

“We are now, compared to the peak in 1990, 30 per cent less likely to be a victim of a crime today than we were in 1990,” said King.

“And crime severity is less than it was in the 1990s. So if we are going to be victimized, we’re going to be victimized by a property-related offence or something like that, not violence.”

King says it’s important to remember tragedies are not an every-day occurrence.

“When you raise the fear of crime, it’s next to impossible to get it down,” he said. “And it never goes back down to the level it once was. So we have to watch that we don’t exaggerate and move into a panic mode.”

Memorial at Belvedere LRT on July 17, 2023, where 52-year-old father Rukinisha Nkundabatware was fatally stabbed. (Bianca Millions/CityNews)

The killing of 52-year-old Rukinisha Nkundabatware on July 9 outside the Belvedere LRT station was the latest high-profile killing, described as random by police, to grip the city.

A suspect, who police say did not know Nkundabatware, was charged with second-degree murder. It was Edmonton’s 25th confirmed homicide of the year.

“We need to look at some of the root causes,” said Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi. “As a municipality, we are doing what we can in our capacity to improve safety.”

RELATED: Edmonton mayor demands urgent bail reform following LRT slaying of father of 7

Edmonton is the third deadliest city in Canada this year at 1.68 homicides per 100,000 people. Winnipeg leads the list at 2.02 homicides, and Saskatoon is second at 1.75.

Other random, seemingly unprovoked acts of violence have grabbed headlines in Edmonton.

On Saturday evening, two people in a car went on a city-wide shooting spree, injuring three. The man and woman were taken into custody and face a combined 37 charges.

And the Edmonton Police Service has confirmed 2022 saw the highest number of violent crimes ever reported in a single year. Assaults, intimidation and thefts saw the biggest jump between 2021 and 2022.

King believes in cities with higher crime rates, the onus is on the police force to find a solution.

“I always go to, first and foremost, how are the police responding?” he said. “Are they responding in a manner that is sufficiently enough people in their plan to do what they wanted, and then, is it working? And if it isn’t working, then they need to change what they’re doing.”

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