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Police seeing more severe crimes committed in the city, chief says

Police commissioners discussed the most recent crime statistics report during their March meeting.
Violence. Getty Images

It’s still early in 2023, but the Moose Jaw Police Service is noticing some potential trends in certain crime categories, including an increase in the severity of offences.

“This is something we have seen. This is something that’s been happening for quite some time, not just here, but across the country,” Police Chief Rick Bourassa said during the March meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners while discussing the crime statistics report.

For example, he pointed to common assaults, with 34 incidents occurring from January to February 2022 compared to 10 incidents during the same period this year, a drop of 70.6 per cent.

However, the number of incidents of assault with a weapon — a more serious offence — has skyrocketed by 450 per cent. There were six incidents from January to February 2022 and 33 occurrences during the same period this year.  

“What this tells us is we’re not seeing an increase in assaults, we’re seeing an increase in severity, which we have known for a few years,” said Bourassa. “Things really seemed to change for us and for a lot of people during the years of (pandemic) restrictions.”

The YTD data for crimes against the person for the years 2021, 2022 and 2023 show:

  • Homicide: 0 / 0 / 0
  • Attempted murder: 1 / 0 / 0
  • Assaults (sexual, common, with a weapon, aggravated, against police): 43 / 51 / 51
  • Robbery: 0 / 2 / 0 
  • Total: 62 / 72 / 69; a 4.2-per-cent drop year-over-year

The overall goal should be to prevent crime instead of catching criminals because if police stop crime before it occurs, there is no need to punish offenders or suppress their rights, said Commissioner Doug Blanc while quoting from the board’s training handbook. 

“An effective police department doesn’t have high arrest stats,” he added, “it is a community that has a low crime rate.” 

Property crime

With crimes against property, there has been a YTD decrease of 21.6 per cent in all break-in categories, Bourassa said. The police will continue to track this category, especially since business break-ins — especially into storage compounds — were prolific last year. 

The YTD crime statistics for break-ins — business, residence and other — in 2021, 2022 and 2023 show there were 49, 37 and 29 incidences, respectively. 

YTD, the number of thefts over $5,000 have jumped to seven incidents from two last year. Furthermore, there have been 137 thefts under $5,000 YTD compared to 91 incidents last year.

The police are watching those categories, especially since many were for shoplifting or theft from homeowners’ yards, said Bourassa. 

With motor vehicle thefts, the YTD data for 2021, 2022 and 2023 show 10, 12 and eight incidents, respectively. 

With arson, the YTD data shows there were one, three and zero incidents, respectively. 

With mischief under $5,000 (property damage), the YTD data shows there were 48, 30 and 42 incidents, respectively. 

Total YTD crimes against property for 2021, 2022 and 2023 were 267, 230 and 284, respectively. 

Calls for service

There were 2,895 calls for service during the first two months of this year, which is 637 more than last year and 612 more than in 2021, Bourassa said. 

“When we see an increase in calls without corresponding increases in the crimes report, it just speaks to the fact that about one-fifth to a quarter of our work is related to crime,” he added. “The rest is related to other issues going on in the community … .”

These numbers shouldn’t be surprising since the police service “foreshadowed” that this would happen after pandemic restrictions ended and society reopened, said Commissioner Darrell Markin. 

The pandemic added an extra dimension to policing because, in a post-COVID-19 world, officers are responding to more social issues, which also stresses existing resources, said board chair Mary Lee Booth. 

“It’s (still) early in the year. We aren’t running around screaming with our hands in the air (that) the sky is falling,” chuckled Bourassa.

Other crimes

The YTD data for other types of crimes also show:

  • Impaired driving: 9 / 17 / 13
  • Failing to comply with a court order: 124 / 152/ 69
  • Threats: 7 / 14 / 7
  • Domestic disputes: 31 / 16 / 9
  • Vehicle collisions over $1,000: 46 / 57 / 39
  • Drugs (cocaine, marijuana, meth, other): 11 / 7 / 6

The next police board meeting is Thursday, April 6. 

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