The timing of a couple of serious incidents in Estevan was ironic.
Last week Statistics Canada released its annual crime severity index (CSI) report – a look at not just the amount of crime in communities, but the weighted significance of the crimes. Each incident is assigned a value, tabulated and then weighed against a community’s population.
It’s worth noting that Estevan’s overall CSI was down in 2021. The violent crime number was up, thanks to a homicide charge for last year – the first for Estevan since 2014 – but our non-violent crime rating was way down.
But on the same week that the CSI report comes out, we had a couple of pretty serious incidents within a 24-hour span.
One was a fatal accident that occurred on the southern edge of the city, close to the junction of Highways 18 and 47. Alcohol was believed to be a factor.
The other was a brief armed standoff in central Estevan in which a person barricaded himself into a home with an elderly person. It’s the second standoff in Estevan this year, although this latest one was nowhere near as long as the first.
When things like this happen in a community of this size, it’s easy for us to be on edge. After all, we live in a small community. There’s a good chance that we know or know of someone involved in one of these incidents, or we know someone who has a close connection to someone involved.
But we should still feel safe in our community.
The crime severity index is one of those things that should always be taken with a grain of salt. There is value. But it is slanted to be favourable towards larger markets.
A homicide in Toronto or Vancouver or even Regina isn’t going to skew the numbers that much. But if it happens in Estevan or Weyburn, then it has a big impact.
Our violent crime index number is at its highest level since the data was tracked in 1998 due to one incident, but our non-violent crime figure is, for whatever reason, at its lowest level since 1998.
Ultimately, as we’ve said before, a community is only as safe as its residents feel. Yes, you’re going to have those who are perpetually worried and are always looking over their shoulder. But what does the average citizen think?
Do we feel comfortable going for a walk at night? Or do we worry about being mugged?
Big cities might be below Estevan on the CSI scale, but where do we feel safer? Estevan or Toronto?
And maybe we should feel a little more comfortable after seeing the non-violent crime rating, although it would be prudent to track the numbers over the next couple of years. And regardless of what the numbers state, it’s always best practice to have your door locked for your home or vehicle when leaving them unattended.
As for last week’s incidents, the tragic vehicle accident reminds us that we always have work to do when it comes to impaired driving. We’ve seen a lot of progress in the past several years in Estevan. The number of cases of impaired driving by alcohol has been slowly decreasing. This accident – if it was indeed alcohol related – doesn’t undo that progress.
It’s also a reminder that we need to think of the punishments for impaired driving.
As for the standoff, it’s troubling when these incidents occur, and there are several reasons for why they can happen. We can only hope that they are resolved peacefully and that those responsible can find some form of assistance.
Should we feel safe here? Yes. Most people in our community are great and we’re lucky to have our police forces, whether it be the Estevan Police Service in the city or the RCMP in the rural communities.
And when tough situations occur, we should be able to trust them.