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Conference coming this month on Crime Severity Index

City of North Battleford spearheading conference in Saskatoon on the CSI statistics, several communities being invited.
Mayor David Gillan says the city is behind a Crime Severity Index conference later this month in Saskatoon.

NORTH BATTLEFORD - A major conference has been organized for the end of the month on the Crime Severity Index.

The conference is being held Feb. 28 and 29 in Saskatoon. The City of North Battleford is spearheading the conference and has invited a number of other communities that have ranked high on the Crime Severity Index to it as well.

“We’ve been planning it now for months,” Mayor David Gillan told city council at their meeting Monday night. He said it was conceived from the city of North Battleford to bring together communities that are high on the Crime Severity Index on an annual basis, with Saskatoon chosen as a convenient location.

The goal is to better understand the CSI and its limitations, and also address the damage due to negative publicity caused by the annual release of the CSI numbers each year.

A number of guests have been invited including the RCMP, as well as academics who Gillan said could “come in to talk about the limitations of the Crime Severity Index, and of course the issues that come from the ranking of communities in the CSI index.”

Gillan also said that Stats Canada will be at the conference as well, adding the city had been discussing this conference with them for some time. 

He noted North Battleford had been at or near the top of the CSI index since it was brought in in 2009. “So we’re trying to find solutions from this, trying to find a way to better understand the limitations of the Crime Severity Index as it’s calculated… and then the second issue is the ranking of communities starting at populations of 10,000 and above, and the fact that basically the same 10 to 15 communities are always at the top of the list.”

Gillan noted that communities from across western Canada in the top 10 to 15 in the CSI list are coming. The mayor is hoping the conference will address many of the issues seen, including the reputational damage to cities due to bad publicity from the CSI ranking.

“We hope we’re going to have some positive results for all our communities, not just the city of North Battleford, but all our communities, and with Stats Can present hopefully will find a solution to this situation we find ourselves in for a lot of years, because it really, really hurts our community. I can’t even explain the pain (of) this publicity, this negative publicity of this ranking every year of the city of North Battleford. I was just in Charlottetown, visiting my 94 year old mother. I met with her colleagues in the old age home who said ‘what about the crime in North Battleford?’

“It is crazy, it is just crazy, and this CSI thing is all over the Internet and it’s so misunderstood. So we’re going to dig in this conference and we’re hoping to have a positive result.”

Battlefords RCMP Inspector Jesse Gilbert confirmed at Monday’s council meeting that the RCMP will have a number of representatives attending. “ I think it’s a conversation long overdue,” he said.

Gilbert noted that when the CSI was first brought in, “they made it very clear when it was put in place that it’s one measurement, it’s not to be taken by itself. There’s so many things that can make the numbers fluctuate. And I think one of the other issues is the way they tie ‘more dangerous’ to the numbers, and that might not be the perception, that may not be the actual outcome… “

Gilbert also noted that the crime severity numbers are particularly skewed for communities that are smaller. One issue is the cutoff of 10,000 population in the rankings.

“Somehow these guardrails got put out, particularly for communities this size and they get caught in that. It does impact communities that are smaller, and the communities that are bigger are so big that they can have a lot more crime and the numbers don’t tell the same story because they spread it over a larger population. So I think it’s a conversation that needs to happen, and I think the way that it’s being reported takes all the nuance out of the numbers. And I don’t really know how you can speak to somewhere being dangerous without any nuance there. When you talk to people, no one seems to feel in the city that it is what it is reported.”

Gilbert said even with the RCMP when you tell people you work in North Battleford, the reaction is “whoa, that must be tough.” 

“Actually, it’s really nice, I’m happy here,” said Gilbert. “That message that’s out there outside of the city doesn’t match what you hear in the city.”