Editorial: Island danger rankings don’t really pass the eye test

Numbers worth paying attention to, but is it really that dangerous here?

Is it really that dangerous on Vancouver Island?

The answer to that question, in our opinion, is no.

A cursory look at Macleans magazine’s ranking of no less than six Island towns — Port Alberni, Victoria, Nanaimo, North Cowichan, Courtenay and Campbell River — among the 50 most dangerous communities in Canada one might be led to panic.

But don’t board up the windows and doors just yet. We tend to agree with the cautious approach to the numbers offered by the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP.

First off, crime doesn’t necessarily follow the same boundaries as defined by the study so calling North Cowichan dangerous doesn’t mean Chemainus (part of North Cowichan) is dangerous as well. Or calling Oak Bay “safe” and “Victoria” can be problematic when socially one can argue they are two neighbourhoods in one community.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, some of the numbers are so small a single incident or arrest can significantly skew the results.

For example, there were two homicides in the Duncan area in 2016. That’s unusual. In 2017, so far the number is zero. But when you’re taking such small numbers and trying to project them to a per 100,000 number the percentage becomes bizarre.

The RCMP are also correct that things end up looking worse the more they do their job. More arrests and charges mean higher stats, but presumably they also mean making our community safer. Ditto prolific offenders.

Is there more crime on the Island than we would like? Of course. Until the numbers are zero that’s going to be the case.

And we do have some areas where the numbers are worrying — domestic violence stats, for instance are nothing to be proud of and something we need to keep working on.

But let’s face it, when you walk down the street in Port Alberni, or head to the waterfront in Nanaimo, or stop for a coffee in Campbell River, do you feel like you’re about to be set upon by gangs of miscreants?

For the most part our communities are pretty great. Most of us feel safe in our homes and on our streets. So while the stats are interesting and can even perhaps point the way for things that need further attention, they also need to be looked at without hysteria and with a critical eye.

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