Criminal activity is continuing its decrease in Prince Albert, with the latest batch of statistics revealing a further 8.6 per cent drop in overall crime.
“It’s obviously a good news story — an 8.6,” Prince Albert Police Service Chief Dale McFee said proudly. “But, I think when you really focus on the violent stuff … you see that it’s a 22.6 per cent (decrease) and that’s an area that we’ve been focusing on.”
There have been 254 assaults reported so far this year, representing a 35.7 per cent reduction compared to the first six months of 2011.
The 8.6 overall reduction in crime represents this same timeline. There have been 5,164 crimes reported so far this year and 5,652 crimes reported at this time in 2011.
The reduction in crime follows a recent trend, which saw the city’s overall crime rate drop by 11.3 per cent last year compared to 2010.
One glaring exception to last year’s reduction in crime was a 26.3 per cent increase in sexual assaults, with 120 reported in 2011.
This trend appears to have since reversed, with 51 sexual assaults reported so far this year, representing a 25 per cent reduction from the 68 reported at this time in 2011.
“We’ve done a very good job on investigating, with two hard-working individuals that work full time on that,” McFee said.
One part of a multi-faceted response to last year’s sexual assault statistics was revealed in March, with the city police’s launch of a “Don’t be That Guy” poster campaign, targeted toward the perpetrators of sexual assaults.
The key, McFee said, is in those kinds of preventative measures.
“We’re focusing on those indicators before it actually happens and we’re seeing some positive impact in relation to that,” he said.
“It’s far from over and it’s certainly going to take a diligent effort going forward, but what (these statistics are) showing is those positive trends.”
Prostitution is down 100 per cent so far this year — not necessarily indicative of fewer prostitutes, but a lack of police crackdown thus far in the year. There were nine criminal occurrences of prostitution by this time last year.
“There will be enforcement coming forward,” McFee noted.
Although the city’s overall crime tend is a positive one, the area of antisocial behaviour continues to cause concern, particularly when it comes to alcohol use.
“Alcohol by itself isn’t a problem. It’s the excessive use of it that causes us the trouble,” McFee said.
Provincial liquor tickets are up 40.5 per cent, with 590 cases reported so far this year. These violations include a multitude of liquor-related infractions, including drinking alcohol in a public place, public drunkenness and various other things.
We’ve kind of drawn a line in the sand and we tackle it and we’re not going to waver in our position. It’s going to tick some folks off, but at the same time it’s going to help a lot of folks and what we need to do is maintain that balance. - Prince Albert Police Service Chief Dale McFee
“We have such an excessive use of alcohol,” McFee said. “Police alone are not going to be able to bring that down. It’s a multi-agency perspective and something we’ve been working on.”
This multi-agency perspective has been created in large part through the creation of Community Mobilization Prince Albert.
This organization links various community leaders together for weekly Hub meetings to take on immediate issues, including community and individual problems, in a preventative and timely manner.
Community Mobilization Prince Albert has also seconded representatives on a full-time basis for the COR, an organization that takes on longer-term issues, such as alcohol abuse in the city.
“The Hub and COR is taking stuff out of the system before it gets a chance to multiply,” McFee explained.
A jump in the number of break and enters was also noted in this year’s half-year report, with 296 cases signaling a 39 per cent increase over this time last year.
Many of these have involved sheds and other such outbuildings, McFee noted, with many cases involving youth fuelling drug habits or other such negative lifestyles.
“We have lots of antisocial behaviour in our city and our region, and quite frankly I don’t think it’s acceptable,” McFee said.
The solution is part enforcement and part preventative measures, helping those that need help and locking up those that deserve locking up, he said.
“It’s all about that balance. If we’re just going to arrest and hopefully rehabilitate them in the correctional centre, I don’t think that’s the full plan. That’s part of the plan.
“We’ve kind of drawn a line in the sand and we tackle it and we’re not going to waver in our position. It’s going to tick some folks off, but at the same time it’s going to help a lot of folks and what we need to do is maintain that balance.”
Looking to the future, McFee said that he hopes to see city police continue along this positive trajectory, unwavering in their wide breadth of focus.
“We have to continue to have that balanced focus … We realize that sometimes when our resources get stretched thin we tend to move things out of areas to focus on other things, and we have to make sure we don’t do that.”