Sheltering at home during the pandemic, as well as more people using neighbourhood sidewalks and city paths, likely led to the drop in crime in Red Deer so far this year.
Compared to 2019, Red Deer RCMP reported a 41 per cent drop in vehicle thefts; 20 per cent fewer thefts under $5,000; 19 per cent less property crime; 18 per cent fewer criminal code cases, and 15 per cent fewer break and enters.
TerryLee Ropchan, executive director of Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre, said more residents being at home during the day took away the opportunity for criminals to strike.
More eyes on the street were also a factor in reducing crime, she said.
“I think that definitely played a role, whether it was just on the paths or within neighbourhoods, there were lots of people walking around,” Ropchan said.
Red Deer RCMP Superintendent Gerald Grobmeier said the huge increase in the number of people out and about, walking and using public spaces, created fewer opportunities for criminals.
“Most property crimes are crimes of opportunity, where criminals intentionally target places where no one will see them,” said Grobmeier in a statement.
The factors that influence crime rates are varied and complex, but one contributing factor could be the increased use of city parks and trails system, he said.
Ropchan said community agencies were also working with people to make sure they had a safe place to stay.
“A whole bunch of pieces fell into place that made for 2020 stats to look much better. My hope going forward is what was started — people really paying attention to their neighbourhoods, and who is in their neighbourhoods, and calling in reporting things — that those types of activities continue.”
She said this year several people became got involved in their local Neighbourhood Watch program. New block captains connected about 180 neighbours. People were also just making an effort to meet their neighbours.
“Whether they came in and got set up with Neighbourhood Watch, or organically, we’re just excited more people got to meet each other.”
She said the 41 per cent drop in vehicle thefts was likely due to fewer people using their vehicles, and leaving them running unattended, when COVID struck.
“When their vehicle isn’t running and the keys aren’t in it, the opportunity is removed.”
When spring arrived, more cyclists participated in Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre’s bike registry program 529 Garage, Ropchan said.