Violent Amherst?

Published on July 20, 2012

The graph published this week in a Toronto-based newspaper is telling: in 2010, 80 people were murdered in the city.

In the wake of a backyard barbecue shooting incident in the big city – two dead, more than 20 injured – safety would seem to be one more reason to celebrate being a Maritimer.

But look a little closer at the graph, and another statistic comes to the forefront. With 1.4 murders per 100,000 people, Toronto’s murder rate was below the national average of 1.62. And Halifax was well above the national rate: 11 murders (2.73 per 100,000).

That’s Halifax, though. We all know Halifax has a violence problem, right?

Wrong. Amherst had more violent crime in 2010, and by quite a margin.

The provincial average in 2010 was 156 violent crimes per 10,000 people, according to the Nova Scotia government. Halifax had 155 incidents – one below the provincial average.

Amherst was way up in the stratosphere, with 329 violent crimes per 10,000 people – more than double the rate of Halifax, a city with a murder rate substantially higher than Toronto’s.

Still feeling safe?

The good news is we live in a safe country, so even the “dangerous” parts of it are still safe by international standards. And stats change. Violent crime went up more than 40 per cent in Amherst from 2009 to 2010, for example, while shootings seem to be up this year in Toronto.

Clearly, though, we have no reason to feel smug. The province includes what it calls “risk factors” in its stats. In 2010, the Amherst area had lower incomes than the provincial average, collected more government transfers, had less education, higher unemployment and fewer people in professional occupations. Among families, fewer of us were married than the average, and more of us were in common-law or single-parent circumstances…

…none of which guarantee any particular person will become a criminal, of course, but all of which probably leads to a statistically higher incidence of crime overall.

We have a good community here. But it could be better. And turning a blind eye to problems won’t solve them.