Crime has dropped significantly in Red Deer this year and the city’s top police officer believes residents can get some of the credit.
“Especially during the pandemic, citizens kind of almost took their city back,” said RCMP Supt. Gerald Grobmeier. “And what I mean by that is that we saw people in parks, we saw people on trails — they were everywhere.
“The more legitimate use you have of spaces the less criminality there is because you take the opportunity away from people. That’s certainly had an impact.”
Common crimes such as break and enters and motor vehicle theft often serve as indicators of broader trends. In both cases, the numbers are down significantly.
To the end of July, break and enters are down 14 per cent — 603 compared with 700 over the same period in 2020 and 772 in 2019.
Motor vehicle thefts are also dropping, down 10 per cent through July to 420 compared with 467 in 2020 and 735 in 2019. Thefts over $5,000 dropped 42 per cent to 19 from 33 and theft under dropped 21 per cent to 960 from 1,220.
Common crimes against people, such as assault, are also down, according to first-quarter statistics. To the end of March this year, there were 349 assaults, down 17 per cent from the 423 assaults over the same quarter in 2020. Robberies are down 74 per cent — 14 this year from 53 in 2020.
The results are in keeping with longer trends, which Grobmeier said are more reflective of community safety than year-to-year comparisons, which can fluctuate.
From 2016 to 2020, robberies are down 19 per cent, assaults down six per cent, break and enters 23 per cent and motor vehicle thefts 44 per cent.
Those numbers show Project Pinpoint, which was rolled out in 2016, is working, he said. The analysis-based strategy focuses on crime hot spots in the community and known criminals and draws on the experience of probation and parole officers, Crown prosecutors and others to help police.
“The entire detachment works towards the same goal and has the data that everybody needs. It’s taken a few years to take hold and it’s expanded every year since then. We have a lot of buy-in from our police officers.”
Social agencies are also playing a role in reaching out to people in the community before they are lured into crime.
Not all crimes are trending in the right direction. Sexual assaults through the first three months of this year are up 28 per cent — to 46 from 35. Other sexual assaults are also up 28 per cent — 23 from 18.
That increase is partly due to a growing awareness of groups such as the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, which has encouraged more people to come forward, Grobmeier believes.
Criminal harassment charges are up 19 per cent — to 105 from 88 and uttering threats charges are up eight per cent to 127 from 118.
Police believe the pandemic, which left people cooped up at home, in many cases unemployed, facing wage cuts or uncertain about their jobs, created stress that sometimes boiled over into criminal behaviour.
“When the pandemic first hit I think all police and social agencies were just waiting for domestic violence, sexual assaults, uttering threats, those types of calls to really spike,” he said. “We really haven’t seen a huge spike, which is good, but I do believe some of those numbers are pandemic-related.”
Overall, Grobmeier is encouraged by how 2021 is shaping up. Last year was a good year with criminal code offences down 19 per cent from a year earlier that keeping that trend rolling would be a success. Total Criminal Code offences were 17,577, compared with 21,829 in 2019.
“We had such a big drop in 2020 and that’s our goal to meet or beat that,” he said.
One significant source of help will be outreach and diversion programs, such as the drug court that is coming to Red Deer.
But Red Deerians can play a big part in keeping the community safer.
“My big message to everyone in Red Deer is we did such a great job of using the city, using our parks, using our trails, getting out on foot, using our spaces for legitimate use, which as significantly contributed to a reduction in crime. I just encourage everybody to continue to do that.
“Once we get out of this pandemic, let’s not go back to our previous patterns.”