Red Deer RCMP Supt. Gerald Grobmeier said there are several factors that contributed to some of the increases in crime in first quarter of 2019, including extreme weather this winter, which unfortunately, translated into many vehicles being stolen while they were running and unlocked. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Red Deer’s crime rate climbing

Crime is on the rise in the city, with some incidents of wrongdoing climbing more than 40 per cent from the year before.

“Throughout 2018 and the tail end of 2017, we consistently saw decreases across key areas … ,” said Supt. Gerald Grobmeier, officer in charge of the Red Deer RCMP.

“However, the numbers for this first quarter of this year are showing increases.

“It’s not necessarily unusual to see increases after such a prolonged period of significant decreases, but we know we need to act to ensure this increase doesn’t become a trend,” said Grobmeier, noting this year’s statistics remain lower than in previous years.

When comparing the first quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2018, total Criminal Code files increased by 27 per cent. This is 22 per cent lower than the same time period in 2017.

Total crimes against persons increased by seven per cent.

There were 27 robberies in 2019, compared to 20 in 2018 in the same period.

Sexual assaults experienced a 20 per cent spike this year, which equalled nine more sexual assaults in three months.

Grobmeier attributes the spike to an increase in reporting. With the #MeToo movement, more victims are comfortable coming forward and making reports, he said.

“It’s encouraged more people. We don’t want more sexual assualts, but we certainly want people to be comfortable to report.”

Total property crime increased by 41 per cent, but remains 27 per cent lower than the same period in 2017. Theft under $5,000 increased by 30 per cent, but remains about 31 per cent lower compared to the same time in 2017.

Break and enters increased by 39 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

In the first quarter of 2019, 377 vehicles were reported stolen, compared to 177 in the same period in 2018.

“We recognize that an increase in crime rates is not what the community wants to see, and it isn’t what we want to see either,” said Grobmeier.

“There are several factors that we believe contributed to some of the increases, including extreme weather this winter, which unfortunately, translated into many vehicles being stolen while they were running and unlocked.”

Traditionally, the number of stolen vehicles increases in winters in Red Deer, when compared to summers, he added.

“Most of the stolen vehicles were left running with keys in.”

Other factors that led to the increase in crime include migration of criminals to Red Deer from other parts of Alberta such as Calgary and Edmonton, said the superintendent, as well as from smaller communities.

“We’ve seen other detachments surrounding us have been mimicking what we do in our crime reduction strategies, so there’s a lot more pressure coming on to these criminals in other areas. “

Grobmeier said, “when we look at the quarter, we may be a bit shocked,” but the numbers are lower compared to recent years.

One of the ways police are working to reduce crime is through Pinpoint, a made-in-Red Deer program that targets repeat offenders and crime hot spots.

Between Jan. 7 and April 8 of this year, Red Deer RCMP conducted 521 checks on targeted people and addresses identified through Pinpoint.

Police also conducted another 1,368 checks in crime hot spots.

Many factors in 2018 worked in the RCMP’s favour, which Grobmeier described as a best-case scenario.

“(One such scenario was) every one of our Pinpoint targets was in jail for a significant amount of time (in 2018),” he explained.

Downtown Business Association executive director Amanda Gould said its members have noticed a positive impact since the launch of the downtown police unit.

The four-officer detail focuses on patrols, having a police presence and public engagement.

“They do feel they’ve been heard, that they’re seeing the unit and the unit officers are going in to chat with them and find out what’s going on,” Gould of her members’ experiences.

“It’s really gone a long way in helping the perception from a business perspective.”

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