Crime spike

Moose Jaw po­lice see rise in num­ber of in­ci­dents, as well as vi­o­lence of al­ter­ca­tions last year

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - FRONT PAGE - SARAH LADIK

Crime is up in the Friendly City and there is no clear rea­son why.

“We’re see­ing an in­crease in vi­o­lent be­hav­iour gen­er­ally,” said Po­lice Chief Rick Bourassa on Fri­day.

“We don’t know how to at­tribute that ex­cept for a shift in cul­ture.”

This trend is not unique to Moose Jaw; af­ter watch­ing crime rates de­cline since the 1990s, North Amer­ica has been gripped by a shift to­wards in­creased rates and sever­ity of in­ci­dents for the last five years or so. Since 2013, Moose Jaw’s num­bers in al­most all cat­e­gories mea­sur­ing re­ported crimes are ris­ing.

The lat­est data avail­able to the pub­lic is al­ready al­most a year old. Bourassa said Sta­tis­tics Canada re­leases the in­for­ma­tion in July, but that it is pre­sented to the Po­lice Com­mis­sion­ers Board dur­ing bud­get time in the fall.

The Moose Jaw Po­lice Ser­vice has ac­cess to far more cur­rent num­bers, but a more com­plete pic­ture emerges when the num­bers are com­piled by the na­tional body, as well as lo­cal and pro­vin­cial agen­cies.

“2016 looks like it was a peak year,” the chief said.

We don’t know how to at­tribute that ex­cept for a shift in cul­ture.

Po­lice Chief Rick Bourassa

“In 2017, it’s look­ing like the num­ber of crimes against the per­son are likely com­ing down again.”

Last year’s num­bers, how­ever, are shock­ing. From a low point in 2014, the num­ber of in­ci­dents rose about 20 per cent in two years. Per­haps more tellingly, the Crime Sever­ity In­dex — a num­ber gen­er­ated by Sta­tis­tics Canada that weighs the sig­nif­i­cance of var­i­ous of­fences — has gone from 91 to 116 over the same pe­riod.

That last cat­e­gory mea­sures se­ri­ous crime that isn’t al­ways vi­o­lent, like in­stances of break­ing and en­ter­ing. How­ever, Bourassa said there has also been a spike in the fig­ures for the vi­o­lent crime sever­ity in­dex, which has climbed in a straight line from 45 in 2013 to 84 in 2016 — with an in­crease of 22 per cent in that last year alone.

“We did see an in­crease in the level of vi­o­lence,” Bourassa said, not­ing that of­ten where an as­sault used to mean some­one push­ing or shov­ing some­one else, there are more cases now that in­volve weapons or ag­gra­vat­ing cir­cum­stances. “When you see these trends across ju­ris­dic­tions like we are, it tends to mean a shift in the cul­ture, pos­si­bly to­wards vi­o­lence be­ing more ac­cept­able.”

While causal links are nearly im­pos­si­ble to prove on pa­per, the gen­eral sense is that at least part of the rise in crime in gen­eral and es­pe­cially vi­o­lent files can be cor­re­lated with drug use.

“Break­ing and en­ter­ing, things be­ing stolen from cars, that’s of­ten peo­ple look­ing for money to buy drugs,” Bourassa said. “This is at the same time we’ve seen an in­crease in metham­phetamine in our city.”

Po­lice have been run­ning tar­geted projects to tackle the drug prob­lem, but there is no real way to tell if this is what is now low­er­ing in­ci­dences of re­ported crime. The chief said it is now up to peo­ple like crim­i­nol­o­gists to study the find­ings and help guide prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions for po­lice de­part­ments to im­ple­ment.

Still, the new data does not re­flect only bad news. The num­ber of re­ports filed for all in­ci­dents rose from 9,535 in 2015 to 10,620 the fol­low­ing year. Bourassa said only about 30 per cent of po­lice ac­tiv­i­ties ac­tu­ally in­volve crime; the rest is deal­ing with sit­u­a­tions of so­cial disor­der in­volv­ing men­tal health is­sues, al­co­hol, and child pro­tec­tion, among other things. This kind of in­ter­ven­tion is key to pre­vent­ing crime be­fore it hap­pens.

“The rise in crime can par­tially ac­count for the rise in re­ports, but not all of it,” said Bourassa.

As dire as these num­bers may ap­pear, Moose Jaw’s crime rate is still be­low the Saskatchewan av­er­age. Of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties served by their own po­lice forces — as op­posed to the RCMP — Prince Al­bert re­mains the high­est, with Moose Jaw com­ing in sec­ond, just slightly above Saska­toon and Regina.

When you see these trends across ju­ris­dic­tions like we are, it tends to mean a shift in the cul­ture, pos­si­bly to­wards vi­o­lence be­ing more ac­cept­able.

Po­lice Chief Rick Bourassa

FILE PHOTO

Po­lice Chief Rick Bourassa weighed in on the Sta­tis­tics Canada crime re­port for Moose Jaw. The graph above shows the Moose Jaw Vi­olect Crime Sever­ity In­dex which re­flects in­creases in rob­beries, as­saults and other crimes against the per­son.

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