Swift Current’s crime severity index increased in 2017
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