According to the city’s annual policing report, St. Albert had the lowest crime severity index in Alberta in 2016.
In the 2016 Annual Policing Report released this week by the St. Albert RCMP documenting crime in 2016, it shows a drop in crime severity between 2015 and 2016, which allowed the city to continue to have the lowest crime index in the province.
Both violent crime and non-violent crimes dropped during 2016 and that helped the city sit below the Canadian average.
St. Albert detachment commander Insp. Pamela Robinson said that the report, which draws on numbers from Statistics Canada, gives a broad picture of crime in the area.
“Any decrease is good news and it is a telltale sign that we are doing a good job in policing in this community and serving the community,” Robinson said.
Robinson said that although a drop in the crime severity index is good news for St. Albertans, the statistics can be subjective and a myriad of factors may influence a decrease in crime rates. Causes such as an economic downturn, population growth, organized crime, increased reporting and changes in drug culture can all impact the crime rates in a community. The inspector said that it can be difficult to isolate individual factors that may influence the crime rates at any given time.
Drug charges and drug incidents in the city continued a downward trend with incidents having been on the decline since 2014. This decline is consistent with both Canada and Alberta wide statistics that show drug charges dropping for the previous two years.
Mischief crimes decreased significantly between the two reporting years and dropped from 1,083 in 2015 to 797 in 2016. This drop helped drive down overall property related crimes, which decreased from a total of 3,011 in 2015 to 2,819 in 2016.
The city saw a major drop in homicides and offences related to death with two reported in 2015 and none reported in 2016. Robbery charges also dropped during the one year period, from 13 charges down to 10 charges.
Crimes on the rise
Although the general severity of crimes is decreasing in the city, some crimes did climb during the year.
Overall, persons-related crimes increased across the city between 2015 and 2016. In total there were 539 incidents in 2015 and that number increased to 627 incidents. Persons-related crimes include homicides and offences related to death, robbery, assault and sexual assaults.
Assaults, not including sexual assaults increased from 313 incidents in 2015 to 371 incidents in 2016, which represents a change of 19 per cent.
Robinson said when it comes to many crimes, increases can be attributed to an increase in reporting.
“It comes down to people reporting those crimes, so having the trust of the community to actually report and contact the police … those are the tools we use to deploy our responses,” Robinson said.
Theft of motor vehicles, which falls under the property-related crime umbrella, increased by 27 per cent from 2015 to 2016, climbing from 126 incidents to 160 incidents. Possession of stolen property increased by 22 per cent and fraud also climbed by 21 per cent in 2016.
Injury collisions in the city nearly quadrupled from just over one incident per 1,000 people to just under four incidents per 1,000 people. This jump can be partially due to the change in the way injury collisions are being reported in the community and contributes to an increase in the number of collisions that were reported to have an injury.
Calls for service
The annual report also detailed an increase in the total 911 calls received over the year. Calls have been increasing since 2012 and between 2015 and 2016 the number increased by around 55 per month, or 1.8 per day. The total calls received is now above 13,000 – up from around 12,500 in 2015.
This increase lead to a request for more emergency communications operators in the 2018 budget. The detachment currently has 8.56 positions and was approved for four more positions when the budget passed.
The number of dogs impounded in 2016 decreased by three, from 57 in 2016 to 54 in 2016. Dogs biting people have also decreased from around 27 down to 25. Incidents of dogs biting other dogs has doubled in the same time, with around 15 bites reported in 2015 and around 30 reported in 2016.