Low crime provides peace of mind in Québec City

Date 01/08/2016

Written byTaylor Ireland

I grew up in a place where you didn’t worry too much about locking the doors on the house when you went out. Rural Saskatchewan is a pretty safe place when it comes to crimes, be they against person or property. That’s the kind of quality of life that seems harder to find, particularly for our friends and neighbours south of the border and many other places in the world.

So, it’s been a pleasant surprise to find that Quebec City, while vastly different in so many ways from my Prairie home town, offers the same peace of mind when it comes to feeling safe from crime on a daily basis. It’s probably not the best thing to take for granted one’s security in a relatively large city by Canadian standards; it’s just that living in Quebec City you do get used to not worrying about the threat of being a victim of crime.

But, the facts don’t lie. Quebec City is one of the safest cities in Canada, indeed, according to freshly released figures from Statistics Canada, it shares the top spot with – surprisingly enough – Canada’s largest city, Toronto.  

The figures for 2015 show Quebec City has the lowest Crime Severity Index, which measures the volume and severity of Criminal Code offences reported to police. The rating is 41.8 – a drop of six points since the previous year, and a crime rate of 2,844 reported incidents per 100,000 population; by comparison, Toronto had a CSI of 45.7 and a crime rate of 2,892.

It’s worth noting that for the first time in 12 years Statistics Canada reported an overall increase in criminal activity across the country, although a modest one. The CSI rose five percent, but, as Stats Can points out, the index is still down 31 percent from what it was a decade earlier.

As for the major two cities in my home province, it turns out the urban areas are not as safe as out in the farmland. Both Regina, with a crime rate of 8,146 and Saskatoon with 8,427, are among the highest in the country.

One highly quantifiable way to measure crime is the homicide rate and on that score Quebec City’s murder rate is so low it made history. In 2007, city police reported no murders whatsoever, the first time such a thing has happened in a Canadian metropolitan area with more than 500,000 population since data has been available. That year was not an anomaly; last year there were only two murders, down from four the previous year and the same as in 2011. Numbers are also very low and dropping for other violent crimes like assault and sexually-related offences. Crimes against property – break-ins, robberies, arson and the like – have been declining steadily over the years. Car theft, for example, has plunged nearly 40 percent since 2011.

It doesn’t take an economist or sociologist to figure out that crime is directly related to socio-economic conditions. Clearly, and sadly, poverty and the lack of unemployment and educational opportunities are at the root of crimes such as home break-ins and armed robberies of businesses.  

This in large part explains why Quebec City is such a beacon of civility. The city is, to put it a bit poetically, an almost magical place when it comes to employment and job opportunities, with one of the most diverse and thriving economies anywhere. Again, we look to Statistics Canada for the proof. The overall unemployment rate for the province of Quebec as of June, was 7.0 percent; Quebec City’s is 4.1 percent. Economists in Canada generally consider full employment to be six percent, taking into account transition and voluntary withdrawal from the workforce. Montreal, by contrast, has 7.8 percent unemployment.

So crime is very low and declining in Quebec City, and, of course, that’s a very good thing. But, as a cautionary note, part of the explanation for that phenomenon may be the evolving nature of crime and crime-reporting. As Quebec City Police Chief Michel Desgagné observed a few weeks ago upon the release of the force’s 2015 report, victims may be reporting crime less because of insurance conditions like deductibles, and criminals may be less willing to risk a break-in to steal commonly available and increasingly inexpensive items like computers and electronics.

Chief Desgagné says when he started his career there were sometimes up to 15 burglaries a night in Quebec City. Now they are rare. The chief thinks the trend now is to cyber-crime and that’s a new and growing challenge for police forces.

Let’s leave the discussion about crime trends to the experts. The important thing is the undeniable fact that Quebec City is one of the safest places on the planet to live, raise a family and do business. And it’s getting safer every year.