There’s been a two per cent rise in the national homicide rate, due almost entirely to increases in British Columbia and Alberta — much of it gang related — according to a Statistics Canada study released yesterday.

Police reported 611 homicides in Canada in 2008, with gang-related homicides accounting for 25 per cent of murders that year.

Vancouver ranked as the fourth most deadly major city, with 54 homicides or 2.37 murders per 100,000 people.

Winnipeg was the deadliest, with 4.07 murders per 100,000 people, followed by Edmonton and Calgary.

In terms of gang-related murders, Calgary ranked highest with 16 murders last year, or 1.35 per 100,000 people.

Vancouver was next with 19 murders, or 0.83 per 100,000 people, followed by Winnipeg and Edmonton.

“There’s nothing surprising there other than the fact that I thought we were probably well ahead of Alberta cities,” said RCMP Sgt. Shinder Kirk, who is part of the Integrated Gang Task Force.

“We know (gang violence) does occur in cycles,” he said.

“Have we seen an extraordinary amount of violence involving individuals … involved organized crime? Yes, we have.”

But Kirk said a crackdown on gangsters has led to a slew of arrests in the past year and that the overt violence sends the message that “if you are going to get involved (in gangs), you may not live a very long life.