Red Deer RCMP Supt. Gerald Grobmeier answers questions about the latest crime stats. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Crime in Red Deer has risen from 2018, police commander tells council

Supt. Grobmeier is encouraged that second quarter is better than the first

Overall crime in Red Deer jumped by 20 per cent in the first half of this year, compared to the first six months of 2018, the RCMP superintendent told city council.

Property crime rose by an even steeper 26 per cent higher from January to June of last year, added Supt. Gerald Grobmeier.

But neither he nor city councillors were ready to push any panic buttons over the crime stats that were presented on Monday evening at an open city council meeting.

Grobmeier noted that most law-breaking activities were still happening less frequently in the first half of 2019 than in 2017.

And any comparisons to 2018 need to be put in perspective, said Grobmeier, since Red Deer saw a sharp, virtually “unprecedented” drop in crime last year after the RCMP switched to a more proactive method of policing.

He was glad to see crime dropped significantly in the second quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of 2019. He noted total crime was seven per cent lower and property crime was 15 per cent lower in the April to June period than the previous three months.

Grobmeier’s not sure why crime spiked so much in the January to March period — whether because bitter cold led to more car thefts, or more criminals were taking advantage of the nearly 20,000 visitors that attended the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

“Where there are more people, there are more opportunities for crime.”

Seeing crime spikes either up or down is fairly common, he added.

But Grobmeier maintained the local RCMP will continue to make public safety a priority by continuing with proactive projects, such as Pinpoint, which tracks the locations and activities of repeat offenders.

Crime mapping, the new bike registry, a surveillance camera registry and downtown beat strategy were all mentioned as helpful enforcement and prevention strategies.

According to the figures presented to council, 1,504 assaults and other “persons crimes” happened in the first six months of this year, compared to 1,348 in the same period in 2018 and 1,451 in 2017.

Grobmeier confirmed that police are dealing with more crime in the area around the drug overdose prevention site.

One police officer was knocked out by an assailant near the site, he said, while other officers reported being “swarmed” by people hanging out there.

Grobmeier added staff running the site have been receptive to relaying a message to their clients about this “unacceptable” behaviour.

His report showed that robberies rose to 57 from January to June this year from 45 in the first half of 2018. However, they were still down significantly from the 71 in the first six months of 2017.

Property crime was also higher so far in 2019 (6,517 cases), compared to the same time in 2018 (5,165 cases). But still less than the 8,587 reported in the first half of 2017.

This same trend was also seen with break and enters, motor vehicle thefts and thefts under $5,000.

It was also reflected in total crimes, which numbered 10,301 so far in 2019, compared to 8,577 for the first half of 2018 and 12,762 in January to June of 2017.

Mayor Tara Veer said an uptick in crime is always concerning — particularly when it’s directed against persons and property, and she indicated council will continue to make public safety a budgetary priority.

City council voted on Monday to add a designated police officer to work with the Child Advocacy Centre to bring child abusers to justice. Another officer was also added to bring the downtown police patrol to five members, and an additional officer will go to the community policing contingent to work with local youths to prevent crime.

“No elected official is happy when crime goes up,” added Coun. Vesna Higham. But she’s glad to see the numbers headed down in the second quarter, and also noted 2018 was “banner year,” with an “almost unheard of” 30 per cent reduction in crime.

“To maintain the 2018 numbers would be very challenging,” she said.

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