Swift Cur­rent’s crime sever­ity in­dex in­creased in 2017

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG— mlieben­[email protected]­t.com

The over­all crime sever­ity in­dex for Swift Cur­rent in­creased for a third con­sec­u­tive year in 2017.

Sta­tis­tics Canada re­leased the po­licere­ported crime sta­tis­tics for 2017 on July 23. There was a year-over-year change of 8.27 per cent in the crime sever­ity in­dex for Swift Cur­rent from 98.26 in 2016 to 106.39 in 2017.

In 2014 the crime sever­ity in­dex for Swift Cur­rent was 68.75. That was the low­est in­dex level for the city since 1998, but it changed with 18.15 per cent to 81.23 in 2015 and con­tin­ued to grow in the fol­low­ing two years.

Staff Sgt. Gary Hodges of the Swift Cur­rent City RCMP De­tach­ment said the change in the crime sever­ity in­dex for the city is a re­sult of an in­crease in the drug cul­ture and il­le­gal drug use in the com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially the use of drugs such as fen­tanyl, opi­oids and crys­tal meth.

“Along with the drug cul­ture come some­times more vi­o­lent crimes, more specif­i­cally if you look at the sta­tis­tics be­tween 2016 and 2017 for our firearms of­fences,” he said. “In 2016 we had two firearms of­fences and in 2017 we had 12. So when we talk about the crime sever­ity in­dex they would con­sider that to be more se­vere crime. The ma­jor­ity of those firearm of­fences were drug re­lated. They in­volved drugs in some way, shape or form, whether it was peo­ple col­lect­ing drug debts or steal­ing prop­erty to sup­port their drug habit.”

The sever­ity in­dex for both vi­o­lent and non-vi­o­lent crime in Swift Cur­rent have in­creased since 2014. The vi­o­lent crime sever­ity in­dex changed from 59.21 in 2014 to 93.76 in 2017, while the non-vi­o­lent crime sever­ity in­dex in­creased from 72.08 in 2014 to 110.69 in 2017.

Ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics Canada ex­plana­tory notes the crime sever­ity in­dex is a mea­sure of changes in the level of sever­ity of crime from year to year.

The in­dex in­cludes all Crim­i­nal Code vi­o­la­tions. All the crimes in the in­dex are as­signed a weight based on their se­ri­ous­ness, and the more se­ri­ous crimes re­ceive higher weights.

“It’s dif­fer­ent from the crime rate,” Hodges men­tioned. “When we look at the crime rate, we’re talk­ing about the to­tal num­ber of crimes per 100,000 peo­ple within a com­mu­nity. When we look at the crime sever­ity in­dex we’re weigh­ing se­ri­ous­ness of a crime as op­posed to num­ber of crimes com­mit­ted com­pletely. Specif­i­cally, the weight is given to the of­fence in two dif­fer­ent ways. First of all, if the of­fence is some­thing you could be in­car­cer­ated for, and then the sec­ond thing is the length of that in­car­cer­a­tion.”

When more se­ri­ous of­fences oc­cur in a com­mu­nity in a cer­tain year, it can have a greater im­pact on the crime sever­ity in­dex for that year.

The in­crease in the num­ber of firearm re­lated of­fences in Swift Cur­rent in 2017 there­fore had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the crime sever­ity in­dex.

The RCMP has seen gang re­lated ac­tiv­ity in the city that is linked to the avail­abil­ity of drugs in the com­mu­nity.

“We have seen dif­fer­ent mem­bers of out­lawed mo­tor­cy­cle gangs here in the city at dif­fer­ent times, and we’ve also seen some street gangs from Regina that have been present in the city, and it’s all in re­la­tion to the drug cul­ture,” he said.

He feels it is nec­es­sary for Swift Cur­rent res­i­dents to be aware of the rea­sons that cause the in­crease in the crime sever­ity in­dex, but they do not need to be con­cerned about their safety.

“I would say the com­mu­nity is still safe as far as that goes,” he said. “I don’t think I see the crime sever­ity in­dex as out of con­trol. We’re see­ing a growth in the com­mu­nity, and when you see a growth in a com­mu­nity you also un­for­tu­nately see a growth in crime as well.”

The over­all crime sever­ity in­dex for Swift Cur­rent is still lower than other cities with a sim­i­lar pop­u­la­tion size in the prov­ince.

The crime sever­ity in­dex for North Bat­tle­ford was 371.58 in 2017 and for York­ton it was 134.92.

“It means that those other two cities have higher lev­els of se­vere crime and that’s what the crime sever­ity in­dex is,” he said. “It gives weight to spe­cific crimes. So the more se­ri­ous the crime, the higher the weight. The less se­ri­ous the crime, the lower the weight. If you look at it from that per­spec­tive, there’s less se­vere crime in Swift Cur­rent com­pared to York­ton and North Bat­tle­ford.”

The RCMP in Swift Cur­rent is work­ing in partnershi­p with other or­ga­ni­za­tions in the com­mu­nity to ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing is­sues or root causes of crime such as gang ac­tiv­ity, ad­dic­tions, poverty and home­less­ness, which all might con­trib­ute to­wards a drug cul­ture in the city.

“Our pri­or­ity in con­sul­ta­tion with the City Coun­cil and the mayor is to go af­ter drugs and drug abuse, and work with other agen­cies in the com­mu­nity to help deal with the ad­dic­tions is­sues that ex­ist,” he said.

“Those agen­cies in­clude the Saskatchew­an Health Au­thor­ity, youth and adult pro­ba­tion, So­cial Ser­vices, both the school di­vi­sions, be­cause we’re try­ing to ed­u­cate and help on the ed­u­ca­tional side of things as far as what drug ad­dic­tion can do, and then also work­ing with the United Way.”

Res­i­dents can play a role to as­sist the RCMP to deal with crime in the city, be­cause of­fi­cers can­not be ev­ery­where.

“We rely on the com­mu­nity to help us with our eyes and ears” Hodges said. “Ob­vi­ously we can’t have enough po­lice of­fi­cers stand on ev­ery sin­gle street cor­ner in the city of Swift Cur­rent. So we rely heav­ily on the peo­ple in the com­mu­nity to take own­er­ship for the com­mu­nity that they live in. … We need peo­ple, when they see crimes be­ing com­mit­ted, if they see some­thing sus­pi­cious, to re­port it to us and let us know.”

We’re see­ing a growth in the com­mu­nity and when you see growth in a com­mu­nity you also un­for­tu­nately see a growth in crime as well. Staff Sgt. Gary Hodges

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