Crime severity in Owen Sound continued to rise in 2018.
According to new data published by Statistics Canada, Owen Sound's violent crime severity rate rose to 105.81 last year. The Scenic City now ranks No. 47 in violent crime severity among 321 communities across Canada with populations over 10,000.
Owen Sound has seen violent crime severity climb steadily higher in recent years. According to a past Bayshore Broadcasting report, the city was ranked No. 62 in violent crime severity nationwide in 2017. In 2016 it was No. 128.
In Ontario, Owen Sound had the ninth-highest violent crime severity rating last year -- no change from where the city stood on the undesirable list provincially in 2017.
Owen Sound Police Chief Craig Ambrose says the police service is aware of the higher crime severity rates.
Ambrose says more occurrences of sexual assaults, assaults and threats contributed to the higher violent crime severity in Owen Sound last year.
"The big increase that I've noted locally and the concerning one is the increase in the number of assaults and the number of threats," explains Ambrose. "Both of those are almost 50 per cent increases over last year. And that's certainly something we're concerned about."
Ambrose says clearance rates on assault charges remain similar to past years and most cases are being solved. But, he notes the total number of assault charges in the city has nearly doubled since 2014.
"We may be keeping up with the charges, but it's concerning that the violence and the assaults are taking place in the first place," says Ambrose.
Drugs continue to be an issue; Owen Sound's police chief says the prevalence of methamphetamine and opioids is a growing concern in the community.
"Certainly the influence of addictions in the community is really high and the crime that goes along with that is something we are monitoring," explains Ambrose. "I think it's important to work together with our community partners to try and address some of those issues and try to lessen the impact on crime."
One positive takeaway -- Ambrose says the amount of robberies dropped off sharply in 2018, with occurrences down nearly 75 per cent year-over-year.
Ambrose acknowledges the higher crime severity rates have to be worked on to drive down, but cautions the statistics can be impacted by a smaller increase in occurrences because of the city's population.
"I wouldn't want to get people into panic mode that Owen Sound's right around Toronto on the violent crime index," Ambrose says. "I think some of it is weighting. With some of the populations, a smaller increase in numbers has a much larger effect."
Owen Sound also saw its non-violent crime severity index value rise to 85.87 in 2018 -- leaving the city ranked 90th in Canada. That is up from No. 100 in 2017.
Overall, the city's crime severity index -- which combines violent and non-violent crime severity -- is 91.3 for 2018. That sits No. 72 on the national ranking.
According to Statistics Canada, crime severity index is calculated by giving a numerical weight to all crimes reported to police -- based on court data, maximum sentences and actual sentences.
Every single violation contributes to the overall Crime Severity Index value for a community.
The severity weights are updated every five years to reflect any changes to the Criminal Code of Canada or sentencing.