Home invasions push up city’s crime rate
Violence increased in Hamilton last year, StatsCan says
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.
Deputy police Chief Dan Kinsella said there was a notable increase in robberies last year, and the trend appears to be continuing.