Officials react to article calling North Battleford 'Canada's most dangerous city'

By Greg Higgins
November 24, 2017 - 5:00pm Updated: November 24, 2017 - 6:02pm

City officials responded recently to a recent national article and subsequent national news coverage which labelled North Battleford as the "Canada's most dangerous city." 

Maclean's Magazine released it's article yesterday, and though it paints a less than rosy picture of the city, the mayor and administration said there were some positives to come out of it.

The article was published on the Maclean’s website yesterday and is titled “Canada’s most dangerous city, North Battleford, is fighting for its future.”

Mayor Ryan Bater admits being atop the crime severity index is nothing new to North Battleford and multiple articles have been written about the city before, but this time is has been put out there to a national audience.

Bater said his and administrations initial reaction is that the article isn’t all that negative.

“We knew it was coming and we voluntarily participated with the reporter,” Bater said. “We saw this as an opportunity to showcase the work that the city is doing to address safety and crime. Our challenges in those areas are well known and we’ve been aware of them for quite some time.”

Bater said the city has been working hard to use the tools available to address crime. He added crime and safety is one of the highest priorities of the city government.

The mayor added administration wasn’t sure what to expect from the article, but based on the questions the reporter asked, they had a good idea.

“I think it is consistent with what we thought the article would be about. We knew it would be about the crime and safety challenges the city faces, but would also include what we are doing about it.”

As for how it makes North Battleford look nationally and the impact it could have on new business and potential residents, Bater didn’t seem overly concerned there would be any impact. The mayor said the city is one of few communities in the province with a growing economy in a time of economic strife.

Bater said the article was a bit unfair because it only focused on one aspect of the community, but admitted the article wasn’t wrong.

“I don’t think it is dishonest. I think most of what is presented here is fairly factual. There might have been a bit of editorializing in terms of the tone, but I don’t dispute the information that is being presented.”

“The unfairness is that with all the positive things there are to say about our beautiful community, this is the one aspect that gets attention.”

Administration and RCMP took some issue with the label of “most dangerous” as well because the article states North Battleford hasn’t had a homicide since 2013.

City manager, Jim Puffalt said crimes of opportunity and preventable crimes are driving up the rates in North Battleford, not necessarily violent crimes. Battlefords RCMP inspector, John Sutherland, said the majority of violent crimes are not “stranger on stranger,” so anyone visiting North Battleford has nothing to fear.

Bater said he would argue North Battleford does more than any other city in the country to address crime and safety.

“We fund programs that are not a civic responsibility, but we do it because they need to be done and we’re willing to step up to the plate.”

Puffalt believed firmly the city is making great progress in crime reduction with all the initiatives put forth to reduce crime since 2014. He said that year was a pivotal point for the city.

“That’s when the detachment amalgamated and the Community Safety Strategy was implemented. If you look at our rates between 2009 and 2013 North Battleford had an increase in crimes stats of 15 per cent and Saskatchewan had a decrease of 16 per cent. Since 2014 crime in North Battleford has increased by 8 per cent compared to 18 per cent in the province. So we are doing 10 per cent better.”

Puffalt added the rates are based on per capita and with North Battleford being the hub of the northwest, the city gets a lot of transients who do not account to the city’s population of just over 14,000. He said realistically the city has closer to 30,000 people in it at any given time.

“If you put our rates over 30,000 people we wouldn’t be number one,” Puffalt said.

Ultimately Bater said the onus of being the “most dangerous city” in Canada shouldn't be solely placed on the city itself. He added of the top 100 most dangerous cities in the country, only two weren’t in the west.

“The reality is we require the provincial and federal levels of government to take notice of this and align their efforts with ours. This needs to be a partnership. This can’t be something the governments do in silos and we need to be working together. If we can do that, then sometime in the future we can see some great results.”

Bater hopes the article will be a hot topic of conversation and debate leading into the upcoming provincial by-election on Dec. 11.

 

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