Police cite multiple factors in lower crime rates

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Matt Gardner
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Prince Albert police have credited increased visibility, drug enforcement and co-operation with community organizations for lower crime rates in 2013.

Prince Albert Police Chief Troy Cooper speaks at a press conference on Monday.

Year-end statistics for the Prince Albert Police Service reveal a net reduction in calls for service from 2012 to 2013.

While the Bylaw unit was dispatched to 8.8 per cent more calls in 2013 than the previous year for non-criminal neighbourhood issues, police saw a 5.1 per cent reduction in calls -- resulting in a net reduction in calls for service of 3.6 per cent.

“Regardless of how we document those calls once we receive them, this is a real indication of reduced criminal activity,” Police Chief Troy Cooper said at a Monday press conference.

The general occurrences report released by police saw a high level of variation in figures for different crimes, with higher numbers not necessarily indicative of more incidents.

One of the most notable figures was a 633.3 per cent increase in prostitution, which Cooper was quick to point out did not reflect an actual increase in the sex trade or police enforcement of related laws.

Rather, he said, police are increasingly using legislation as a tool to help sex trade workers.

“The police service considers them to be victims, and so what we try our best to do is to remove them from the sex trade by connecting them to the services they need,” Cooper said.

“One of the ways we can do that is the use of legislation -- actually laying charges using the court system to connect them to services through probation or community service. We did that this year and we did other things … We also met with them, offered counselling, we tried to look at what their needs were, what was driving them to the street and we found that to be quite successful.”

He noted that police actually received 23 per cent fewer calls concerning visible signs of the sex trade in 2013, such as sex workers standing around in the downtown core, and praised the additional resources provided through Community Mobilization and the Prince Albert Grand Council.

Property crime was also down from 2012 with a decrease of 14.2 per cent, which Cooper attributed primarily to a 32.5 per cent reduction in break and enters.

Police have credited the 21.8 per cent increase in drug enforcement as crucial in the decline of property crimes.

“We know nationally, statistics support the fact that property crime is linked directly to drug offences and so we applied some resources there just internally and were quite successful,” Cooper said. “We’re hoping to see that continue as well into 2014 and be a priority.”

Not all property crimes saw a decline, however, as cases of fraud increased by 20.5 per cent and motor vehicle thefts went up by 27.5 per cent.

Of the three types of fraud police report on -- credit card fraud, cheque fraud and scams where a person contacts the victim and attempts to convince them to send money -- police have seen an exponential increase in the third type, though Cooper noted that more people reporting such cases to police may also explain the quantitative leap.

Vehicle thefts, meanwhile, largely involved cases in which people left their keys inside their vehicles or family members taking the vehicle without the owner’s consent.

“We found was that almost all of these offenses were not true auto thefts in the sense that no one broke a window and hotwired a car and took them away,” Cooper said.

“It was an anomalous year in the fact that it’s a 30 per cent increase over last year,” he added. “But (what) we did to combat that throughout the year was simply use the media to advise people to be cautious of where they leave the spare key and that sort of thing.

Regardless of how we document those calls once we receive them, this is a real indication of reduced criminal activity. Police Chief Troy Cooper

“Vehicles in this day and age are very difficult to steal. The auto industry has engineered theft out of their industry and unless you have an older vehicle or a very complicated theft ring, it’s difficult to steal a vehicle.”

On the other hand, robberies saw an 18.6 per cent decrease, while assaults increased by 4.8 per cent, sexual assaults decreased by 1.2 per cent and violations causing death held steady at two cases.

Addressing a 400 per cent increase in abductions from one case to five, police noted that the figure included one report of a parental abduction/visitation issue in which the child was returned safely, one unfounded report in which no abduction occurred, and three reports from children to their parents indicating that strangers had approached them.

Though traffic violations increased by two per cent in 2013, the number of impaired driving cases increased by 44 per cent -- a change that Cooper said resulted from officers focusing more on the issue.

“Our officers live here and their families live here, and after I think being exposed to some of the things that occurred when they saw the deaths and when they were part of such a community event, it was so staggering, they took it personally and decided that in our community we were going to focus on impaired driving, we were going to focus on traffic safety -- and they did, and you can see that in the numbers.”

Among alcohol-related offences, public intoxication arrests held fairly stable, with an increase slightly under one per cent.

Alcohol consumption was also a key factor in the increase in male-on-male violence occurring between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., which police said was primarily responsible for a 1.5 per cent overall rise in crimes against person.

“I think the later in the day that you get when people are consuming alcohol, the more likely there are to be acts of violence, and we know that those are the facts from our statistics,” Cooper said.

Other notable statistics in the report included a 3.8 per cent decrease in reported missing persons and a three per cent rise in calls for domestic issues.

Reflecting on lessons learned from the year, Cooper pointed to increased police visibility in the downtown core, increased drug enforcement and traffic safety initiatives, noting a six-year low in reported traffic accidents.

He also emphasized the need to work together with other community organizations.

“We … know that the work we do through the community mobilization where we’re partnering with agencies such as the Grand Council and the RCMP and the health region and the education systems, those are important preventative steps to take and I think we’ll see long-term goals and long-term gains just simply by that collaborative effort,” Cooper said.

In terms of challenges going forward, he pointed to the mobility of offenders, noting that for the third year in a row, 34 per cent of individuals arrested by police did not come from within the community.

“We have a community that’s quite young … Young people tend to be victims of crime more often (and) they tend to be offenders of crime more often,” Cooper added.

“So we have a challenging, vibrant community that’s going to take a lot of our resources.”

Organizations: Prince Albert Police Service, Prince Albert Grand Council, RCMP

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