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