(Black Press Media files)

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Police-reported sexual assaults and general crime were on the rise in 2018, but crime rates overall remained lower than they were a decade ago, figures released by Statistics Canada show.

In data released Monday, the agency found that police-reported crime went up by two per cent in 2018, but was still 17 per cent lower than it was a decade ago.

Statistics Canada measures crime in the country using the Crime Severity Index (CSI), which takes both the number of crimes and their severity into account.

The increase in the CSI for 2018 was the result of higher rates of police-reported sexual assault, shoplifting $5,000 or less and theft over $5,000.

In general, rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row, “corresponding in timing to the growing public discussion of issues around sexual violence,” including the #MeToo movement, the agency said.

Sexual assaults committed without a weapon or serious bodily harm went up by 15 per cent from 2017 to 2018. In total, the rate of those sexual assault went up by 20 per cent from 2008 to 2018.

Extortion cases went up by 44 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

Authorities said the spike in extortion could be attributed to digital or electronic scams, as well as sextortion, in which victims are told to give money or sexual favours to prevent naked images or sexual activity from being leaked. Extortion rates have gone up every year since 2012.

Homicide rates went down by four per cent to 651 cases in 2018, although statistics remained higher than average for the previous decade.

Homicide disproportionally affected Indigenous people, who make up just five per cent of the population but are 22 per cent of those killed.

Across Canada, drug-impaired driving rates went up by 25 per cent in the past year, while alcohol-impaired driving rates went down by one per cent.

Cannabis-linked drug offence decreased in 2018, data shows, including for possession, trafficking and producing the drug.

Although Statistics Canada noted that legalization in October 2018 likely contributed to that drop, it found that cannabis offences went down even in the 9.5 months of 2018 prior to legalization.

However, methamphetamine-related crimes went up 13 per cent in 2018, continuing a trend that has been on the rise since 2008. Possession crimes went up by 10 per cent, while production, trafficking and importing meth went up by 23 per cent.

Although health officials have been optimistic as the rate of illicit drug overdoses starts to trend down in 2019, 2018 saw British Columbia have the highest rate of opioid-related offences in the country.

Within B.C., Kelowna, Abbotsford-Mission and Greater Vancouver had the highest rates of opioid-related crime.

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