Canada’s most dangerous city: Prince George

Gang wars, drug abuse and a serial killer guaranteed Prince George, B.C., the top spot

Most days, after Doug Leslie is back from work at the molybdenum mine in tiny Fraser Lake, B.C., he sits at his computer and writes a chatty little note to his 15-year-old daughter Loren. It’s a catch-up on the day, and maybe a bleat about those times he pulls the night shift, or about the cold of a northern B.C. winter, or about how quickly days fly by now that he shoulders the destiny Loren has inspired. “Loren, can you do anything about this weather?” he asked her recently. “It’s snowing and I hate winter, it’s cold and damp, and you are not here to warm up the room.” Invariably, he tells Loren how much he misses her, before signing off, “Love Dad.”

The notes grew increasingly plaintive as Nov. 27 approached. The pills weren’t helping him sleep, and the gulf separating father from daughter seemed impossibly wide, although he’d like to believe she reads every one of his messages. “That has been my sanity,” he says of his missives to a daughter who will forever be 15. Nov. 27 was the first anniversary of her murder.

Her alleged killer, 21-year-old Cody Alan Legebokoff, is in custody in nearby Prince George. He faces charges for the first-degree murders of Loren and three other women: Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas, both 35, and Natasha Montgomery, 23.

The murders capped a grim 2010 for Prince George. For the second year in a row, it has the highest—that is to say, worst—score in Maclean’s fourth annual national crime rankings, 114 per cent above the national average. The result is no surprise to RCMP Supt. Eric Stubbs, who heads the detachment there. The year was marked by outbreaks of gang and drug-related crime. Added to that was an uncharacteristic string of nine murders in and around the community of just 74,000 people. Three homicides are alleged to have been committed by Legebokoff that year. Most of the rest are accounted for by organized crime and the drug trade, says Stubbs.

The rankings are based on our analysis of Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index (CSI), commissioned by Maclean’s to measure criminal activity in Canada’s 100 largest cities and police districts. Overall, the news is good. Canada’s crime score has fallen almost 23 per cent since the year 2000. Even Prince George, after a murderous year, recorded a crime score 11 per cent lower than a decade ago. The severity index is a relatively new tool StatsCan has created. It uses police reports of a broad spectrum of offences to rank their relative seriousness. More weight is allotted to the worst offences, such as murders, robberies and serious assaults, based on the length of the sentences served. Using StatsCan’s tally of seven murders in 2010, Prince George had the highest per-capita murder rate in Canada—486 per cent above the national average. It also tops the overall, violent and non-violent crime score rankings, among the 100 cities.

Maclean’s also tracked crime trends by commissioning a run of six indicator offences: homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, breaking and entering and auto theft. It shows Prince George residents endured far more than their share. The rate of breaking and entering was 89 per cent above the national average, the second highest in Canada. Vehicle theft was 104 per cent above the national average, eighth highest. Robbery: 57 per cent above average, 14th highest. Sexual assault: 84 per cent above average, fourth highest. Only the rate of aggravated assault was below the national average.

Turf wars over the drug trade, and related addiction issues, account for a significant share of the crime, says Stubbs. Prince George draws a large transient population. As well, gangs have shifted some operations to the B.C. Interior after a concerted effort by police in the Lower Mainland to disrupt the organized drug trade. Still, Stubbs says anti-gang initiatives have had a significant impact, and the work of a new Downtown Enforcement Unit has made the central core safer and more welcoming. “It’s an excellent community and a safe community to live in, if you’re not in that world of drugs, alcohol and violence,” Stubbs says.

But it is the four murders allegedly committed over 13 months by Legebokoff that many find inexplicable. The burly, good-looking son of a prosperous, respected family grew up in Fort St. James, outside Prince George. By most accounts, he had an unremarkable upbringing, playing hockey, snowboarding and hunting. Yet, if police allegations are proven in court, he began a killing spree at age 19 with the murder of Stuchenko in October 2009. Three other murders followed the next year. He was arrested the night of Loren’s murder after an alert RCMP member stopped his pickup as he pulled out of a logging road in a remote area northwest of Prince George. Loren’s body was found that night in the woods. Legebokoff was charged with the other three murders after a 10-month RCMP investigation.

Prince George and area has endured much sorrow and crime. It sits on Highway 16, better known as the Highway of Tears. It’s a long stretch of road cutting through resource towns and wilderness between Alberta and Prince Rupert, B.C., on the Pacific coast. Eighteen women, most of them hitchhikers, vanished or were murdered between 1969 and 2006. (Forensics and his age eliminated Legebokoff as a suspect in any of those unsolved cases.)

Sharon Hurd, who works at the Phoenix Transition Society, a local women’s shelter, says the city remains a dangerous place, especially for vulnerable women. “The viciousness of the retaliation by the gangs up here has everybody absolutely terrified,” she says. “I’m not the least bit relieved, I’m just wondering how quickly they’re going to get the next [killer].”

Loren’s parents draw some comfort from the belief that her murder was the “catalyst,” as Doug puts it, leading to her alleged killer’s arrest, and perhaps saving other lives. He has launched the Loren Donn Leslie Foundation to raise awareness about Internet predation (Loren may have met Legebokoff online) and other risks facing young people. The foundation, he says, is his destiny. A vigil and fundraiser was held on the anniversary of her death. “[E]veryone was awesome and things went really well,” he wrote Loren on the foundation website. “You would have loved it.”

Prince George, too, is moving on. For whatever reason—vigilant policing, circumstance, and, Stubbs concedes, some luck—at this time the city hasn’t recorded a single murder in 2011. “I’m knocking on all the wood I can find,” Stubbs said.




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Canada’s most dangerous city: Prince George

  1. Scary, but no murders yet in 2011!Be careful out there.

  2. Lots of gang activity up there.

  3. we got the revolving door at the police station in pg , everyone gets let out on the promise to apear and out doing it all over again the next day if not the same day

  4. The public displayed an act of stupidity in a riot that damaged “corporate property”, fortunately no one was killed and the police servants will work overtime, no expense spared to finding these perpetrators. On the other hand, gang murders, illegal activity and violence festers and our public servants find every reason not to bring these career criminals to justice. If they clean-up the gang activity the police servants workload will decline along with their “coveted” budget. ”Crime is their business and business is booming”. It’s not in their best interests to ‘fight crime’. ‘To serve and protect’? “Serve themselves and protect their jobs”. Don’t forget they know who most of the gangsters are but “crime is good for police business”. That’s why prohibition was created.
    Bill, the ‘revolving door’ is good for business, both the courts and the police budgets. But “bad for public safety and Taxpayers dollars”! 

    • Sorry Mike, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the employment of our police forces with that mindset. We are talking about peoples lives here. To insinuate that members of our police force go to work thinking “I hope more people die so I can make money” is extremely naive and narrow-minded. It is immoral on the most basic level of human existence.

      Our judicial system is a mature one. As such, we have a complicated web of laws on the books that require our police to play by certain rules that criminals don’t have to. This makes it hard for them to lock up the criminals, but I wouldn’t want to make it too easy for them either less our police become no different than criminals.

      In response to Bill, those are the rules. If you don’t like them then roll-up your sleeves and work to change them. The Conservative government is doing quite a lot these days with criminal law. Many are in favour, many are opposed.

      • …add to Anthony’s reply…the police are tasked to heavily to do ‘revenue producing’ tasks, tied up for hours processing anyone and anything that may bring in revenue from fines, in a frenzy to meet their quotas.  It’s more important to our local politicians to pay for the winter games and such, the working and producing peons are left to fend for themselves amidst criminals, while many legit businesses are usurped by criminally owned businesses used for money laundering.

  5. The only solution is harsh penalties for offenders.  The low rate of crashes involving alcohol since BC brought in the new draconian drinking driving laws is proof of that.  Now they need to start going after the real criminals.                                                                                                                        The most amazing thing about the story is their ability to manipulate statistics.  There is no way there is less crime now than a decade ago in Prince George.  There were barely even any gangs back then.   Are they saying it’s got a lower crime rate because they don’t include gang activity I might believe that.

  6. I am amazed that Edmonton isn’t up higher in the list….did they not set a record for homicides this year.

  7. I think Macleans should open with a chart of “Canada’s 5 most dangerous cities” and more charts and graphs in general.

    Sad that Saskatoon is again in Canada’s Most Dangerous 3…

    A murder is a tragedy, but not a great indicator of violence, as relatively rare
    Saskatoon’s 3,000 + violent crimes a year are a more accurate indicator than its variable 5 to 10 murders a year

    • well from Mcleans magazine, the top 10 dangerous cities are……
      1) Prince George
      2) Victoria
      3) Saskatoon
      4) Red Deer
      5) Regina
      6) Grand Prairie
      7) Kelowna
      8) Wood Buffalo
      9) Winnipeg
      10) Surrey
      go to their site and ounch in the top ten worst cities in Canada and this is what you get from their site, sad!!

  8. “Overall, the news is good. Canada’s crime score has fallen almost 23 per cent since the year 2000″

    Yet Harper is out with his “tough on crime” agenda
    Yep, I hate it when crime FALLS by 23%

    OH, and Texas says Harper’s policies are too out of date and punitive, that’s re-assuring, the Texans think we’re the rednecks, eh Harper?

    •  I know it pains you that criminals won’t be getting out of jail as quickly now, but I’m sure you’ll get over it.

  9. I hate cody, he killed my friend Loren, PG is pathetic glad I moved

    • BFF, I’m so sorry – our thoughts are with you.

    • i am very sorry to hear you lost your friend like that, could not imagine!! feel bad for all the friends and family…what a terrible thing to live with, hope they are doing well today.

  10. Red Deer Alberta is terrible just last week  a 100lb mute grandpa  with a breathing tube and feeding tube was attacked by 5 to 6 sheriffs to near death in a courthouse while paying a traffic fine….simply appalling just google (Bill Berry Red Deer ) OR GO TO THE CALGARY SUN AND JUST ENTER BILL BERRY RED DEER IN SEARCH BOX, since when did Alberta become a police state

    • A real piece of nasty work, like a lot of cops who would bust heads if given the go-ahead. If it had been my elderly father, I’d have been hard-pressed to not kick the shit out of that “man” at first opportunity, and then take my lumps in “court”. We need more professionally-screened and professionally-trained “peace officers”, and I don’t mean the R.C.M.P. More female officers is a step in the right direction, in spite of their predeliction for giving out petty and trivial tickets to get ahead.

  11. sharon hurd, keep helping troubled and vulnerable women and dont take the liberty of speaking for me, nor the mass majority of prince george residents!!!! “has everybody absolutely terrified”?  what a joke!!! congrats to folks like you and the selective media for the continuation of the ‘state of fear’.  quite pathetic

  12. I agree. I am from Northern B.C and have been to Prince George numerous times and I couldn’t wait to leave. The city scares me and am not shocked about the fact that it is the most dangerous in Canada.

    • and that is the sad reutation we have over us and will till something changes for the better. I had to go to the Island for my mother’s funeral few years back, and people there who did know me asked me where are you from, soon as i tell them where i am from, that is what you hear. Alot of peole are feaful from this city, and feel the same, we need to change this, and make it better, we could be so much more! it is unsettling we are amongst Canada’s worsrt cities!

  13. Being from Prince George, I can see how this story is both true and false. There are some areas that you don’t go to because of the crime or the close proximity of gang land, specifically Queensway and South Fort George, but even these places are relativity safe as long as if you don’t interfere with the gangs in the area. My sister used to live in a house close to South Fort George with her boyfriend and they didn’t even have a break-in during their 3 year stay there (2006-2009). That being said, the majority of Prince Georgians are relatively safe, as Stubbs mentions in the article that “it’s an excellent community and safe community to live in” as long as if you are not involved in gang related activities. I couldn’t agree more. It just sucks that a few gangs bring all this negative attention onto the city without considering the whole picture.

    • Agreed! After having lived in P.G. for three years (2007-2010), I have numerous times thought about moving back. Not once have I thought about the crime as a reason not to. I rememeber Prince George as a thriving community, with lots of healthy alternatives to crime, gangs and drugs. Like sports, pools, amazing nature, outdoor activities, indoor arts and music, pro-active citizens, community gardening, community harvesting, and pretty much anything anyone wanted to make happen!
      Living there as a mid-twenty year old girl, I was often warned of the dangers after night-fall. I remember the nights filled with a variety of cultural experiences (theatres, music festivals, concerts, shows, good food, good dancing) but if you hung around after closing time you could witness violence and assaults between the overly drunk and drugged, usually the ‘same old’ again and again. The police were seldomly there to prevent or stop, showing up after anything had happened. I wonder if these few people are bringing the stats up as high as they are. Would be interesting to see if the crime stats coincide with alcohol and drug abuse stats.. Some preventive work in this field is definitly needed, in addition to the vigilant policing of 2011. Good luck, Stubbs and Prince George! (touch wood)

      • yes so agree, we need a way better drug and alcohol center here, I am very surprised we do not for the big problem we have with it here. I have been in PG for a great many years (18-20) and being we have done down town, yes have seen the samething, few gansters getting into fights, you can see thier markings, or few drunks and addicts gettng into it, and yes the police show up way after it has happened, more intervention is needed here, better centers for these issues, and better options have to be offered to these people who aee making an effort to try and clean them selves up, not just do your 28 days or so then your off on your own, we need more here if we want to try and get a handle on this problem here, it is so sad to see.

    • not as rough as in the day when the old bridge and the canada hotel were still around

  14. I don’t know why, but most of the cities out West are far worst than those out East. Maybe Ontario and Quebec are right to fight the “tough on crime laws” proposed by Harper.

  15. Prince George is exactly what the article said it is.  Thefts and vandalism are rampant, the result of our local drug users, alcohol abusers and the riff raff the provincial gov’t shipped up here to make their fair
    city look better for the winter games.  Our local politicians are devoutly defending this pig stye, living in a bubble far removed from reality.  While the working man works to pay for the replacement and repairs resulting from vandalism and thefts, legit businesses try to compete against the money laundering businesses supported by the local drug industry, the politicians turn a blind eye all the whilst raising our taxes to pay for their personal pet projects.  The local constabulary has been rendered impotent by the numerous fines that must be secured to support and fund these pet projects.  The hands of law enforcement are tied with bureaucracy and a plethora of laws to protect the criminals.  It would be great if our representatives quit whining about the bad publicity and grew the balls to do something about it.  

  16. To paraphrase Homer, statistics can be used to say anything, 14% of all people know that!

    Frankly, this kind of reporting is just meaningless garbage. Shame on Macleans.

  17. Put in the crime statistics from Prince Albert Saskatchewan which has a population of only 35000. If You multiply the statistics on the City Police website to make then as per 100000 we would of beat Prince George. Not fair how we were not able to enter the competition because we never made Canadas 100 largest cities.We would have beat everyone especially on the assaults per 100000.

  18. I am glad I got out of there when I did. A girl I went to shcool with was murdered. It was a scary thought that a girl that i knew was murdered. I hope things get better.

  19. If we had the death penalty, I would believe crime wouldn’t be so rampant. This “tough on crime” is a crock. Several people daily get away with murder and they get only a few years of prison for their “trouble”. And to house criminals costs the taxpayers too much money. If you say to put them to death would cost more, the guillotine worked just fine for many years. Quick and easy (mostly) and cheap. If you want an example of what a mockery our judicial system is.. look at Karla Homolka.

    • yes so true!! Canada so needs to bring the death penalty back!! and put a scare back into these criminals!! we are way too soft!! with the death penalty back, make it will make them think twice!! three strikes your out even rule!! something has to get tougher here!!!!

  20. Dave is right it can be both true and false but I believe mostly downtown is where shit goes down

    • and not to say busineses are leaving..we are losing one of our oldest bakeries, they are closing because no one wants to go down there any more!! look at the Ramada…you walk out that door and what do you see? it is a sad thing!!

  21. We need to get stiffer laws, to make the people committing the crimes think a little more, make them think twice about getting back involved with what got them there in the first place, the youth law needs to be harder, make them think twice, and some serious intervention to sterr them away from a lifeof crime is very much needed, it is sad to see some many young people throw their lives away to crime!!

  22. And when people are more focused on a child molesters feelings and treatment, than getting him off the streets, you see the problem…

  23. The good news is we almost have our 80 MILLION dollar police station!

    • With NO parking for the police cars! LOL! You know you live in the “crime capital” when the police station is worth more than any school, church or hospital!!!!!!

  24. Has anyone taken into consideration that the RCMP commit as many crimes as anyone else. and, that the serial killer was probably an RCMP officer…?

  25. You guys all just suck at life………I was born and raised in P.G and I absolutely loved it. Wouldn’t change a thing. Did anyone maybe think all the ruckus and crime and crap has to do with the people you associate yourself with…..and that’s YOUR fault; not P.G’s…..crime is everywhere so everyone PLEASE STOP turning people away from P.G! I don’t wanna see my home town get bad mouthed so much….and whoever at the bottom made the comment about how “the police station is worth more than any school, church, or hospital” ummm you’re a huge fool :P. The Cancer Clinic, the new Duchess Park Secondary, I had to move a year ago so I haven’t been around to see recent changes but point is….get your facts straight before you start running your mouth.

    21 year old girl saying GIVE POOR OLD P.G A CHANCE!

  26. PS I MOVED TO VERNON and I would WAY sooner raise my kids in Prince George than here….sure there is the odd crime you hear about and the air may not be as good BUT AT LEAST my kids wouldn’t grow up to be ignorant like ALMOST EVERYONE in this town. Soo unwelcoming…P.G just doesn’t care! Too many people for it to be clicky and snotty….that’s enough for me.

  27. There is no crime in Canada, Just ask Michael Moore.

  28. You left out Etobicoke – Mayor Ford’s hood.

    • I’m from there, 200 million police stattion, 12 million gang task force and a 15 ak 47 not hard to find.

      Bc has a larger drug addict problem but ontario alone has almost as much population as all provinces but Quebec combined.

      A city like Toronto will have lower stats due to more people in good areas. North etobicoke has had 13 murders in an area of 25,000 people before.

      Tough on crime doesn’t work though, it perpetuates gang culture and life.

      Why? Many criminals get started young, more prisons take resources away from youth. This leads to more criminals, social programs have been shown to be many times more cost effective.

      Or just regulate and legalize drugs…

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