Reported crime down 'almost right across the board' during pandemic, say Yukon RCMP

RCMP Supt. Scott Sheppard says things have been a little quieter at the Yukon detachment these days, but that that's not always a good thing — especially when it comes to sexual and domestic assault.

'Significant' decrease in reports of sexual or domestic assault a concern, say police

Yukon RCMP say reported crime has been down during the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)

RCMP Supt. Scott Sheppard says things have been a little quieter at the Yukon detachment these days — but that that's not always a good thing.

"The whole issue of crime, you know during this COVID[-19] pandemic state that we're in, is generally down," he said.

"In fact you know, almost right across the board, across all categories of crime."

What concerns Sheppard though, is the "significant" decrease in reports of sexual or domestic assault.

"I don't think things have changed that drastically that there's an explanation to why they're down, beyond I think people are reluctant in reporting — probably because of COVID[-19]," he said.

RCMP Supt. Scott Sheppard believes people may be more reluctant to report domestic assault, because of the pandemic. (Martine Chenier/RCMP)

"We know that there are some people who are afraid to even go to the hospital."

He says sexual and domestic assaults generally tend to be underreported, and that adding "another layer or another obstacle" may discourage even more victims from coming forward.

Last week, Canada's minister for women and gender equality said that the COVID-19 crisis has empowered perpetrators of domestic violence as consultations reveal that abuse rates are rising in parts of the country.

Climbing rates of domestic violence have been reported around the world amid orders to stay indoors and limit social interaction to curb the spread of COVID-19.

People at home means less opportunity for thieves

Sheppard is less concerned about the decrease in other reported crimes. Domestic property crimes seem to be down, and the reason might be obvious — people are at home more these days.

"When you have people generally staying around their property, there are fewer opportunities for these types of crimes to be committed — whether it be thefts or mischief to someone's property," Sheppard said.

Officers have also been doing more "old-fashioned police work," he says, patrolling businesses and the industrial area in Whitehorse in the quiet hours. Any expected increase in crime there hasn't really happened, he said.

Downtown streets have been relatively quiet in Whitehorse during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Karen McColl/CBC)

He says officers have been busier with drug enforcement, but not necessarily because there's more crime — officers just have more time to focus on it.

"We've just been taking the opportunity because you know that there's obviously concerns with people engaging in that type of activity, that up-close-and-personal activity. Many of the people engaged in the drug community, you know they make the rounds, they go into communities, they're all over the territory," he said.

"Unto itself it's a concern for us, from our drug enforcement perspective and protecting that vulnerable segment of the population. It's also another vector for the [COVID-19] disease, which is of concern."

With files from Christine Genier, Ashley Burke and Olivia Stefanovich