Calgary's crime rate uptick likely linked to economic struggles, police chief tells committee

Calgary’s chief of police expects crime statistics that went up when the economy tanked will start to improve over the next year or two.

'Until we recover ourselves as a community, we’re likely to have to deal with these problems'

Calgary Police Service Chief Roger Chaffin told a city committee on Wednesday that "decay on the family side" brought on by economic pressures is likely linked to a continued uptick in crime rates. (CBC)

Calgary's chief of police expects crime statistics that went up when the economy tanked will start to improve over the next year or two, assuming the economy keeps on recovering, too.

Roger Chaffin told the city's community and protective services committee on Wednesday that data collected by the Calgary Police Service showed domestic violence calls have risen 47 per cent from 2012 to 2017.

However, he also highlighted that the rate per 100,000 people of social disorder complaints — such as prostitution, disturbances, drugs and indecent acts — dipped from 7,847.8 in 2016 to 7,787.3 last year.

But Chaffin cautioned it's too early to conclude that Calgary has turned a corner on crime.

"All these issues, social disorder issues, all seem to link to decay on the family side. And that's probably a good hypothesis. It would suggest it's probably the downfall of a significant economy collapse," he said.

"Until we recover ourselves as a community, we're likely to have to deal with these problems."

According to the CPS annual report, Calgary had increases in both the volume and severity of crimes against people from 2016 to 2017.

There was a 16 per cent increase in domestic violence incidents in 2017.

The number of non-domestic related assaults increased by 15.6 per cent. There were more aggravated and weapon-involved incidents as the proportion of these crimes grew from 27 per cent of total assaults to 41 per cent in the past five years, the report said.

More shootings 

Calgary also had more shooting incidents last year — 94 compared with 61 in 2016.

"The majority of these events were targeted involving ongoing gang conflicts," the report says.

The number of reported sex offences kept climbing in 2017.

There were 22.1 per cent more incidents in 2017 compared with 2016, and 30.6 per cent over 2015, the report says.

"Sex offences are traditionally one of the most under-reported crimes. The #Metoo and #TimesUp movements have resulted in far more global awareness of the serious crime of sexual violence," the report notes.

Calgary's homicide rate dipped slightly in 2017— CPS investigated 30 murders in 2016 and 29 last year.

"While the number of homicides has decreased slightly, almost 90% of the incidents involved either a gun or edged weapon," the report said.

Investigations were completed on 80 per cent of the homicides in 2017.

Break and enters decline

Residential break and enters were the only category of property crime to register a decrease, dropping 11.6 per cent, from 2,703 incidents in 2016 to 2,390 incidents last year.

Vehicle thefts continued to increase in 2017, with an 18.2 per cent increase over the previous year.

CPS statistics indicate there has been a levelling-off in suspected opioid drug-related overdoses. With the exception of methamphetamine, drug seizures were down last year compared with 2016.

"Meth is often the drug of choice for many of Calgary's prolific offenders," the report said.