Break-ins are way up in Calgary's inner city, way down in many suburbs

Communities in a ring around downtown have seen a surge in residential break-ins this year, while many of Calgary's suburbs have seen a sharp decline, according to police data.

Some residents banding together to combat property crime

The red areas on this map have seen the highest rates of residential break-and-enters (incidents per 1,000 homes) so far in 2019. Scroll down for an interactive version of the map. (Robson Fletcher / CBC / Google Maps)

Communities in a ring around the downtown have seen a surge in residential break-ins this year, while many of Calgary's suburbs have seen a sharp decline, according to police data.

Across the entire city, police recorded 2,863 residential break-and-enter incidents between January and August, which makes 2019 a pretty typical year, overall. That's just slightly lower than average, when compared with the same period over the previous five years.

But thieves have been targeting some areas much more often than others, and inner-city neighbourhoods, in particular, have been a hot spot.

One of the hardest-hit communities has been Mount Pleasant, where residents have now banded together to combat the rash of break-ins.

"We started off by putting up motion-activated lights and then it got to security cameras, because it kept happening, and it kind of seemed like the same ordeal over and over," said area resident Jarret Torris.

"In a couple instances, we actually caught them on camera."

Torris said pairs of thieves had a system where one would walk through the front gate of a house and try to enter the garage from the man door on the side, while the other waited in the back alley in a vehicle. When the first thief managed to get into a garage, they would then open up the garage door and the other thief would drive up. Together, they would "grab whatever they could" and drive away.

All told, police have recorded 48 break-ins or attempted break-ins so far this year at the 2,831 homes in Mount Pleasant. That's up 69 per cent from the previous, five-year average and it gives the northwest community one of the highest rates in Calgary.

Click or tap on the interactive map below to see how crime rates vary, by community:

Can't see the map? Click here for a version that should work on your device. See map notes below.

It's been a similar story just to the east in Tuxedo Park, where break-ins are up 60 per cent, and many nearby communities in north-central Calgary, including:

  • Banff Trail (up 49 per cent).
  • Capitol Hill (up 93 per cent).
  • Hounsfield Heights-Briar Hill (up 75 per cent).
  • Hillhurst (up 31 per cent).
  • Crescent Heights (up 27 per cent).
  • Renfrew (up 59 per cent).
  • Winston Heights-Mountview (up 42 per cent).
  • Sunnyside (up 50 per cent).

The downtown, itself, has seen relatively low break-in rates, but several communities just to the south and west have experienced a spike in property crime.

Upper Mount Royal has seen one of the highest break-in rates in Calgary this year, with 22.4 incidents per 1,000 homes. Break-ins are up 58 per cent in that community, compared with the previous five-year average.

Anne Fraleigh says many residents in the nearby Rideau Park and Roxboro communities are fed up.

"It's really problematic," she said. "People are mad. They're frustrated. But, you know, this is life in the inner city of a relatively big city."

Meanwhile, in many suburban areas, break-ins are on the decline.

In the far northwest, the number of incidents is down 26 per cent in Rocky Ridge, 30 per cent in Royal Oak, 53 per cent in Arbour Lake and 54 per cent in Tuscany.

And in the deep southeast, break-ins are down 11 per cent in Copperfield, 22 per cent in Cranston, 38 per cent in New Brighton, 42 per cent in McKenzie Lake, 51 per cent in McKenzie Towne and 60 per cent in Auburn Bay.

Fighting back with online co-ordination

In an attempt to stem the tide of property crime in their inner-city communities, Fraleigh and a neighbour have been sending out regular online bulletins to Rideau-Roxboro residents. The bulletins include updates on suspicious activity and reminders to keep their vehicles and garage doors locked and back alleys well illuminated.

Torris said a similar thing happens through an online group of Mount Pleasant residents who share information and strategies to combat property crime.

It's an increasingly common approach for both residents and police, said Const. Mark Smith, who works in the Calgary Police Service's digital communications unit.

"Our main goal is engaging with the community online through the various Facebook community groups and various social media platforms," he said.

It's a two-way source of communication, Smith said, as police share crime-prevention information with residents and residents provide police with tips and on-the-ground intel such as photos and video from security cameras.

"It really is powerful," Smith said.

"Myself, I'm in about 120-plus community groups in Calgary, and every single day we're taking messages from admins of the groups saying, 'You know, I think you guys should be aware of this.'"

And while the crime surge has been frustrating, Torris said there has been an upside to the Mount Pleasant community banding together to address the problem.

"I truly believe that we've kind of got a better sense of community," he said.

"It kind of brought us together. Now, when we walk down the street, we go and have conversations regularly.… You get to know everyone in your neighbourhood and it's just a little bit of a sense of relief that everyone's kind of watching over one another."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

* Note about the interactive map above. The communities depicted are limited to those with at least 100 dwellings and 1,000 residents, as even a tiny number of break-ins can skew the rates in communities with very few homes or people. Some newly formed communities are also excluded because they lack data to make a comparison to average rates in the past.


Robson Fletcher

Data Journalist

Robson Fletcher's work for CBC Calgary focuses on data, analysis and investigative journalism. He joined CBC in 2015 after spending the previous decade working as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?