Home in­va­sions push up city’s crime rate

Vi­o­lence in­creased in Hamil­ton last year, StatsCan says

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - NICOLE O’REILLY

A RE­CENT SURGE in rob­beries — home in­va­sions, in par­tic­u­lar — is be­hind an in­crease in Hamil­ton’s vi­o­lent crime rat­ing.

Hamil­ton saw a 20 per cent in­crease in vi­o­lent crime last year over 2015, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis of po­lice-re­ported crimes re­leased by Statis­tics Canada this week.

Only two mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in Canada saw greater vi­o­lent crime rate in­creases: Brant­ford at 27 per cent and Sherbrooke, Que., at 25 per cent.

De­spite the in­creases, vi­o­lent crime in Hamil­ton still re­mains 37 per cent lower than a decade ago and the over­all num­ber of crimes in Hamil­ton con­tin­ues to de­cline.

The re­port points to an in­crease in rob­beries (493) and homi­cides (12) in Hamil­ton last year as the main driv­ers be­hind the in­crease in the vi­o­lent crime sever­ity in­dex, which weighs the sever­ity of crime based on the av­er­age sen­tence handed down by the courts.

How­ever, tak­ing a closer look at the num­bers shows Hamil­ton has a rel­a­tively low and — like many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties — a vari­able num­ber of homi­cides each year.

This means a dif­fer­ence of a cou­ple

of cases can sta­tis­ti­cally make a big dif­fer­ence. It’s the rob­bery fig­ure that’s more telling. Deputy po­lice Chief Dan Kin­sella said there was a no­table in­crease in rob­beries last year, with a spike in com­mer­cial rob­beries in the early part of 2016, in­creased street rob­beries in the lat­ter part of the year and a jump in home in­va­sions.

And that trend ap­pears to be con­tin­u­ing, he said.

There were 39 home in­va­sion rob­beries in 2015, 69 in 2016 and al­ready 32 so far this year.

Some of those home in­va­sions in­volved guns and shoot­ings. There have been 21 shoot­ings so far in Hamil­ton this year, just one shy of the 22 shoot­ings last year. By com­par­i­son, there were 14 shoot­ings in 2015 and seven in 2014.

It can be dif­fi­cult to say ex­actly what’s be­hind the in­creases.

Kin­sella noted there are of­ten a small group of peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for a large num­ber of crimes, so num­bers can vary depend­ing on whether par­tic­u­lar peo­ple are in or out of jail.

The home in­va­sions and shoot­ings are largely tied to the il­le­gal drug trade and are of­ten tar­geted, he said.

But the po­lice ser­vice is al­ways con­cerned about pub­lic safety, es­pe­cially when there are shoot­ings, Kin­sella said.

That’s why po­lice have in­creased tar­geted en­force­ment, in­clud­ing watch­ing sus­pected of­fend­ers and spe­cific ar­eas in the city where drug crime is more likely to oc­cur, he said.

“We can’t pre­dict the fu­ture, but we are con­stantly gath­er­ing info through crim­i­nal in­tel­li­gence.”

Child sex­ual as­saults were also an­other area that saw a sta­tis­ti­cal in­crease of 192 per cent in Hamil­ton, go­ing from 43 cases of sex­ual vi­o­lence against chil­dren in 2015 to 127 in 2016.

But Kin­sella said any in­crease in sex­ual as­sault num­bers is ac­tu­ally re­flec­tive of more peo­ple re­port­ing the typ­i­cally vastly un­der­re­ported crimes.

He pointed to two large cases last year that each re­sulted in many charges, in­clud­ing Project Links, which saw 60 charges laid against eight peo­ple con­nected to the sex­ual as­sault of a seven-year-old Hamil­ton girl.

Na­tion­ally, Statis­tics Canada found a one per cent in­crease in the over­all crime sever­ity in­dex (CSI).

This was largely at­trib­uted to an in­crease in fraud cases. On­tario saw a 4 per cent in­crease.

Over­all, Hamil­ton re­mains around the mid­dle of the pack at 63.4.

Hamil­ton sits close to the pro­vin­cial CSI av­er­age of 63.6 and lower than the Cana­dian av­er­age of 71.

Neigh­bour­ing Hal­ton Re­gion, which is more sub­ur­ban than Hamil­ton, is the safest mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Canada with a pop­u­la­tion of 100,000 or more at 24.8.

This is the eighth straight year the re­gion has held this top spot.

Hal­ton also ranked 298 out of 305 po­lice ser­vices with pop­u­la­tions of 10,000 or greater. Hamil­ton ranked 138.

“The CSI for Hal­ton Re­gional Po­lice Ser­vice is typ­i­cally low com­pared to other po­lice ser­vices in the coun­try,” said Statis­tics Canada spokesper­son Lau­rence Beau­doin-Cor­riveau.

Hal­ton has the low­est crime sever­ity in­dex of all the “Big 12” po­lice ser­vices in On­tario, which in­clude Hamil­ton, Toronto, Wind­sor, Greater Sud­bury, Lon­don, Ot­tawa, Peel, Ni­a­gara, Durham, Water­loo and York re­gions.

“This long-stand­ing dis­tinc­tion could not be achieved with­out the con­tin­u­ous ef­forts of our uni­form of­fi­cers and the sup­port of, and strong part­ner­ships with, Hal­ton’s ci­ti­zens — the true am­bas­sadors of our great re­gion,” Chief Stephen Tan­ner said in a state­ment.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Deputy po­lice Chief Dan Kin­sella said there was a no­table in­crease in rob­beries last year, and the trend ap­pears to be con­tin­u­ing.

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