Edmonton police see sharp rise in violent crime, chief says
'When oil is up, we're busy, and when oil is down, we're really busy,' Rod Knecht says
With oil prices down and unemployment on rise, Edmonton has seen a sharp increase in property crimes and violence, says police Chief Rod Knecht.
So far this year, violent crimes are up 12 per cent and property crimes up 18 per cent, the chief said.
"We almost saw a switch being thrown. In November of 2014, we saw a spike occur, and it has continued on since then.
"When oil is up, we're busy. And when oil is down, we're really busy."
Assault numbers are up and so are cases of domestic violence.
The chief said calls to police are "through the roof," with 9,000 more than for the same period the year before.
Knecht said many workers laid off in northern Alberta have come to the city to wait until the job situation improves.
The trend seems to be localized to Edmonton, Knecht said, which so far is the only city in Alberta to see a marked increase in crime.
To cut down on the daily workload officers face, the department has a plan for a new way to deal with fender benders.
The city sees about 28,000 motor vehicle collisions each year. For crashes where no one is injured, Knecht said he'd like to set up a collision centre, where drivers could go to fill out the paperwork they need for insurance.
"You wouldn't have three, four, five police officers tied up at the scene, maybe a couple of fire trucks and an ambulance tied up at a scene," he said. "If we were able to go down from 28,000 to 7,000, that puts a lot of police officers back on the street to be catching bad guys."
Knecht said he wants to try the collision centre for one year. The centre would be on the south side, somewhere along Gateway Boulevard.
Given the increase in crime, Knecht said the department plans to ask city council this fall to approve funding to fill 80 more police positions.