Quesnel, B.C. – cesspool of violent crime or statistical victim?

So what does it mean that Quesnel, a tiny city of about 10,000 people in the Cariboo District of central British Columbia, has the most severe violent crime in Canada? That dubious distinction is documented in this new ranking of 208 Canadian municipalities with populations of 10,000 or more, released this week by Statistics Canada. It is based on police-reported crime for 2009. The unwelcome honour bothers Quesnel Mayor Mary Sjostrom, but she doesn’t believe it means her community is unsafe.

Quesnel crime ranking

The highlighted figures above show Quesnel’s violent crime severity index, 329.7 and its ranking as No. 1 (worst) among 208 communities. It’s a measure of the seriousness of violent crime in the community, compiled by StatsCan based on last year’s violent crimes reported by police – the Mounties who patrol Quesnel. The new crime severity indexes (there are also overall and non-violent indexes) are meant to take into account the fact that violent crimes are more time consuming for police, more troubling for citizens and often more difficult to solve. In the severity scale, one murder is equivalent to 300 assaults. In traditional crime rates, one murder and one assault count as equal, violent crimes.

Remarkably, no national reporter from a television network, newspaper or other major media organization had called Mayor Sjostrom, when I spoke to her today about the new StatsCan ranking and crime stats. Listen to the brief interview below:



So what do we make of the mayor’s assertion that Quesnel isn’t an unsafe place, despite this ranking? I don’t think that’s surprising, given the complexity of crime stats and crime. There may be a significant amount of violent crime that comes to the attention of police in many communities – and a substantial amount that police never hear about – but few Canadians are victims of violent crime. In fact, the last General Social Survey – considered a more reliable measure of the true level of criminal activity acrosss the country, as compared to police stats – showed that violent crime hit just 5% of the Canadian population. To put it another way, 95% of Canadians, at least in the survey year of 2003, were not victims of any violent crime. Which would explain why most folks in Quesnel, or any Canadian city for that matter, don’t have much to fear.

Keep in mind that the crime stats released this week count only crimes known to police, and the General Social Survey, completed every five years, tells us that lots of crime is never reported to police, even violent crime. For example, this year’s crime stats tell us that there were roughly 21,000 sexual assaults in Canada in 2009. The GSS suggests there were really 210,000 sexual asasults last year. That’s right – 10 times more sex assaults than the figure reported to police, and then reported by police departments to StatsCan. According to the GSS, roughly 90% of sexual assaults are never reported to police, for a variety of reasons.

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10 thoughts on “Quesnel, B.C. – cesspool of violent crime or statistical victim?

  1. To those who have nothing but negative things to say about Quesnel I have two Questions for you:

    What have you done to support your community and your Mayor in making Quesnel a better place to live?
    What kind of friends are you supporting and socializing with that enables you to see and have such insight on the drugs and theft?

    I have lived throughout BC, and every town and every city that I have been in has issues – but they seem a lot worse when you’re hanging around with the wrong crowd, Generally its becauese YOU are immersed in them. When I changed my social circle and got involved in my community a whole new light was shed, and I saw things from a better perspective. Perhaps its time you all did the same. SUPPORT YOUR COMMUNITY – CHANGE YOUR OWN LIFESTYLE.

  2. clint i think you hit the nail on the head……politics a rumor from people that believe they know, when they don’t. i believe these stats come from the police and it seems we have allot of cops in such a small town to employ, there for more arrests and higher stats .hour and a half away in P.G. we have street prostitution,heroin,meth,and gang activity,something that we have avoided for years because we are a small town and everybody know somebody that knows somebody,so a person tends to be more accountable for their actions. yea we have things that happen but as clint said no more than any small northern town.
    i have lived else where and i know if you look for trouble it can be found anywhere.

  3. AND the flooding of Vancouver welfare pushing their rejects to Quesnel DID NOT HELP OUR CRIME RATE EITHER… MAYOR MARY…………..stephanie you are the victim…….OF GOSSIP……im not saying anymore about your rant. ridiculous

  4. Oct, 19th at 5 22 am……..someone who doesn’t have the nerve to even post their first name and is obviously scholastically challenged finds him or herself on here slamming Quesnel. I have lived here 17 years and I don’t think this town is any different than other small towns in the north……actually I think we take more pride in presenting our town as a clean town and in the summer the city workers do an amazing job with the gardens. It’s simple people…….we have a crime rate that is statistically normal for a town of 25 to 30 thousand……but we are at 10 thousand on paper…….we won’t include the rural area because then the government wants more money out of the city municipal funds to pay for police officers…….period…..it’s that simple …….it’s about money and politics…..and our mayor can’t go on the radio and say that now can she. lol love the yahoos who like to slam our town though…….”ive known the place for 30 plus years” omg …….yeah that makes you the expert, THE SAD PART IS THIS GUY IS PROBABLY STILL LIVING HERE AND HAS HATED IT FOR 30 YEARS AND HASNT LEFT………..WOW!!!

  5. I do not doubt the report what so ever. There are people, like Mike, who will defend Quesnel to the end. The fact of the matter is that you can step on one toe in this town and fifty come running. Everyone is related or friends with those related and so on and so forth. You can say it is a generalization of statistics, you can get peed off and dispute it until the cows come home. I have lived here for most of my life and yet still believe there is a pattern… I was born here, I live my life here, and I will probably die here. To this I ask, how much of the world have you truelly experienced? You can do your two week trips traditionally to Mexico a year, what have you.. but how much have you went out and really positioned yourself in other enviroments and spectated?
    FACT= there was a man who hiked all through Canada and the US, where was the place he was harmed and almost died in? QUESNEL. He was JUMPED under the bridge while trying to take a nap. Why is this place safe to some? RELATIONS OR FRIENDS WITH RELATIONS. To be safe here you need to be in the ‘clique’, the main circles of Quesnel. ANOTHER FACT= I have spoken to cops who have worked all over Canada (including Winnipeg) and they have said that they feared this town the most. YET ANOTHER FACT= If you want to find out about any type of crime going on in Quesnel, you needent bother about looking in the Quesnel Observer, you need to buy a Prince George paper to even learn a bit about it. We had what five people float down the river and one killed in his home last year…2010. And then a rumour spread that only 3 had died and one of those was accidental. ACCIDENTAL MY BUTT! ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE DIED BECAUSE OF DRUGS. And another thing is how pothetic people can be. What is the deal with the mentality where it is cool that you “know people”, bad people, those who drug it up or drink it up and will kick the crap or do anything for money or alcohol, those who sell drugs and have ‘connections’, and so on. Dave, you need to wake up and smell the coffee. If you think this is a pleasant place, you need to take a few trips with the police and see the reality of it. There are many who have a ton of family here which are horrible and choose to keep their heads up in the clouds and remain completely oblivious… Those who blame the lack of work (though I may add that it is crappy) are completely blind as well, it’s not the lack of work here that is the main problem, it’s the lack of wanting to work legally , you know, as tax payers. You would not believe the amount of dealers in town…IT’S DISGUSTING! Everyone needs to stop making excuses for the rejects and open their eyes, relatives or not IT’S WRONG! AND the flooding of Vancouver welfare pushing their rejects to Quesnel DID NOT HELP OUR CRIME RATE EITHER… MAYOR MARY, You will bs your way through anything! You know who I am! I’m the one who called wanting answers about what YOU WERE GOING TO DO WITH OUR WATER PROBLEM THIS YEAR. It is pretty damn convenient that you had your secretary to call me with some bs to try and cover up your bad news, BUT THE MINUTE YOU HAD GOOD NEWS, YOU KNEW MY NUMBER! HOW VERY CONVENIENT THAT THE WATER WAS ALL BETTER THE DAY BEFORE FAMILY DAY… AND AFTER KNOWING ABOUT OUR WATER CRISIS IN FEB. YOU ‘FORGOT’ TO LET QUESNEL KNOW AND NOONE COULD UNDERSTAND WHY EVERYONE WAS COMING UP WITH THE FLU AND JUST NOT KICKING IT…… AND NOW MY CHILDREN HAVE STILL HAD STOMACH ISSUES…. VERY SHIFTY MRS MAYOR… YOU ARE JUST LIKE THE REST. All places around here are becoming sketchy, but they will not improve if those continue to put their heads in the clouds… ACTION IS NEEDED OR WE WILL ALL LEAD OURSELVES TO SHAMBLES.

  6. I’m going to have to agree mostly with Micah. Having spent some time living in Quesnel I learnt fast how rough the town itself really is. I wasn’t there much longer than a couple of months before the violence started, and not having felt safe going out in public began. Whenever I went out I had to be ready to fight or defend myself regardless of what was happening. As well the first comment talks about the RCMP in Quesnel being rude, I myself understand what he’s referring to and have felt their ignorance and the corruption of the law enforcement there. Within the couple years I spent there I knew of around 10 people who had been killed and much more who had been brutally beaten and/or been victims of crime. Quesnel is an extremely beautiful town, but looks are deceiving greatly.

  7. There is a regional problem with violent crime. Quesnel, Williams Lake, Prince George, Vanderhoof, there’s something wrong. The highway of tears, the Maclean’s Magazine ranking of PG, Williams Lake being cited as BC’s crime capitol in The Province for a couple years recently, and the above article reflect something real.

    As someone who’s lived in Quesnel for most of my life, of course I feel safe here. But if I think of the number of people I’ve known over the years who have in fact ended up murdering someone, there’s several. How many people have I known — women mostly — who have been victims of violent crime? There’s quite a few. Some are dead. I don’t think that’s normal for a middle class Canadian.

    As far as the reporting issue goes, there are things that happen in northern BC that would make national headlines if they happened in greater Vancouver, but only get a passing mention on small local stations in the north, if they are reported at all.

    This is a great region and a great town. Quesnel is overall a safe, beautiful, and friendly place. Still, there are very real problems.

  8. I have to echo Mike’s comments. I was born in Quesnel and still reside here today with my family. I also have 30+ yrs of town history. I always think these sorts of scales and stats are a little skewed. I think Quesnel is a great town to live in. As Mike alluded to, there are problems just like every small town. I have two little kids and feel quite safe raising them here near family and friends.

    Theft may be a problem in some area of Quesnel, but through the years I’ve in quite a few areas and have never had a problem. In my current location, I have a quad and two sets of spare tires and other valuable items sitting outside in the open, as does most of my neighbourhood.

    I to, went to all sorts of parties and the bars and never witnessed more than a couple of fist fights. There are many good people in Quesnel who try to promote it and make it better. If it bothers you that much, maybe it isn’t for you.

  9. I just happened across this article and the person that made the first comment is not only an ignorant boob but doesn’t have a clue about Quesnel, 30 years of “knowing” it or not. I grew up there and have lived there for the first 25 years of my life, and most of my family still lives there. Yes, it has it’s isssues…..just like EVERY small town that has gone through the collapse of the timber industry. But calling it “one big mad drunk” is not only insulting but shows you know nothing. A bunch of generalized opinions with nothing to back them up isn’t worth squat. How about providing some stats that prove Quesnel has a higher occurence of liqour distribution retailers than other towns it’s size instead of spewing mis-informed drivel and verbal diarrhea? The number of liqour retailers is a useless stat anyway, there could be a million liquor stores in Quesnel but the fact remains you are dead wrong and should research before you state things as fact.

    Case in point, in 2009, Quesnel ranked the 6th lowest alcohol cunsumption per capita out of the 16 areas that make up the northern health region in BC. Even compared to the Interior health region (another 32 areas) Quesnel is still ranked as the 8th lowest consuming population of alcohol out of 48 health region areas. Finally, out of the 89 regions making up the various health regions, Quesnel ranked the 26th lowest for alcohol consupmtion (that’s in the bottom 30% for the entire province). Does that sound like “one big mad drunk”?

    I’d ask for some stats to back up the amount of drugs and crime you are so sure exist in Quesnel but whats the point. You’re reality is based on fiction and self imposed judgement rather than fact. Yes, there are drugs, crime and other social problems but find me a small town between Hope and Smithers that doesn’t. Prince George was listed as the most dangerous city in Canada by Maclean’s magazine 4 days before you made your comment. You are basing you’re opinion of Quesnel’s crime problems on snowmobile thefts? Has it occurred to you that there are alot of sleds stolen because…..wait for it…….there are alot of sled owners in Quesnel to choose from? I’d put a hefty wager on those big ticket items like sleds and quads being stolen from people that don’t live in Quesnel. There was an article a few years back about people from AB coming to BC to steal sleds and take them back to sell in AB. Again, research is your friend.

    So let’s address the actual problem and put this into perspective. This is a case of 208 cities with more than 10,000 citizens. Do you really think that all the violent crimes in a city the size of Regina is reported to police? Does it not make more sense that the smaller the town, the higher the reporting rate would be? When I lived there, the cops were at every bar fight and bush party just waiting for something to happen. And when it did happen they were there to report it, thus padding the stats of a ranking such as this. Do you really think the cops in red deer, Abbotsford or Barrie Ont. are rgetting every assault reported? There have been murders in Quesnel and they have been highly publicized. If one is worth 300 assaults, what do you think happens to these rankings when a murder in a large center like calgary isn’t discovered? This ranking has too many variables and unknowns to be worth much…..just like many other stats that compare apples to oranges.

  10. Yeah, the stats don’t lie no matter how much that town/city’s officials might say things are ok. Quesnel is very drug rich, crime infested and corrupt. The people generally are rude (including RCMP) so this probably adds to the crime. The only real thing Quesnel has going for it is you can buy beer almost less than half a mile away there are that many alcohol stores and pubs. The town is one big mad drunk. I mean any town of Quesnel’s population that needs over 10 liquor retailers including a large government liquor store that says something about the town and why crime is so high there. Stack all that liquor in with all the drugs that float around Quesnel and you got crime. This has been a very huge problem for Quesnel ever since the 1970s and has just gotten worse. Police in Quesnel are questionable per their respect for citizen rights and so on using their power as leverage to control or influence fear or anger. New cell phone laws came. I still see people driving around using their cellphones without ear pieces or bluetooth – police let them just drive on by in Quesnel. I can say too I’ve lived here enough years to know well enough what Quesnel is all about too cause I’ve known the place for 30+ years. Put it this way, if you dare buy a 2010 snowmobile you had better lock, chain and board it up because sure as hell someone will steal it. Cost of living in Quesnel too adds to the crime. Because Quesnel has such a poverty level theft is higher. This too is what leads to higher crime is when your community’s economy is shot and Quesnel’s economy has been shot for many many years so it’s obvious crime is going to increase.

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