Edmonton police made fewer drug and gang-related arrests last year compared with 2011.

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Edmonton police chief explains to media Thursday why drug busts are down in the city. (CBC)

Figures presented to the police commission Thursday show gang and drug arrests dropped by 25 per cent.

That's because police shifted their attention to quality arrests rather than quantity, Chief Rod Knecht said.

"We're focusing on the higher level traffickers, the mid-level, the high-level trafficker, as opposed to the street-level trafficker," he said. "So with that, obviously we are not making the same number of arrests because we are targeting at a higher level."

Knecht told the commission he was particularly concerned about the growing number of sexual assaults reported in Edmonton.

"That continues to trend upwards and we are concerned about that," he said. "We had a bit of an awareness campaign in December and early January around the need for people to pay more attention to this area."

The report also shows domestic violence cases jumped by 23 per cent.

Knecht said he believes increased public awareness about domestic violence is prompting more women to come forward to file complaints.