Saskatchewan

Regina police chief sets sights on 'monster issue' of gun violence as reported crime hits 10-year high

The first half of 2019 has seen a 16.5 per cent increase in reported crime in Regina over last year, and the highest number of recorded crimes for that period in the past decade, according to a new report from the city's police service.

Mid-year crime statics show a 16.5 per cent increase in reported crime from 2018 to 2019

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said the police service needs assistance from the provincial and federal governments to deal with rising crime in Regina. (CBC News)

The first half of 2019 has seen a 16.5 per cent increase in reported crime in Regina over last year, and the highest number of recorded crimes for that period in the past decade, according to a new report from the city's police service.

The mid-year crime report was presented to the city's Board of Police Commissioners at a meeting Thursday.

The report indicated 11,186 incidents of crime reported from January until the end of June this year. That number includes crimes against people, property crimes and other Criminal Code violations, but not traffic and drug violations.

That number is up from 9,605 incidents last year, and 9,179 in 2017.

Regina police Chief Evan Bray said there are three main factors that are driving rising crime rates — drugs, guns and gangs.

There were five homicides and 23 attempted murders in Regina in the first six months of 2019, the report says. In all of 2018, there were six homicides and 17 attempted murders.

Bray said the number of guns in the city, and a willingness to use these weapons, is connected with the rising number of attempted murder charges. 

"They're prevalent, they're in our community, and they are being used. They are being used to threaten, they're being used to intimidate, they're being used to wound, and they're being used to kill. And so we need to … dig into this issue, and we cannot do it alone."

Regina saw an increase of 16.5 per cent in total crime reported in the first half of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, according to a report from the city's police service. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Bray said police need help from the province and the federal government to address the root causes of crime — addiction and gun violence. Bray said the housing-first initiative, which focuses on providing secure housing for people in need before addressing issues such as addiction, is a good example of provincial assistance that directly contributes to lowering crime rates.

"People don't have time to work on advancing their life if they're trying to scramble and fight for survival," the police chief said.

Mayor Michael Fougere agreed, and said the city will work with the federal government on a national housing strategy.

"This is an important element of reducing crime and reducing those who are vulnerable from either causing crime or being victims of crime," said Fougere.

The mid-year statistics in the report showed a nine per cent drop in assaults compared to the same period last year and a six per cent drop in break-ins, but a 19 per cent increase in robberies, a 16 per cent rise in property crimes, and a 17 per cent increase in motor vehicle thefts.

Despite the increase in total crime, the mayor emphasized that the city and police are being proactive.

"I would stress that we still have a safe city," Fougere said.

Twenty officers with the Regina Police Service have been reassigned to front-line duties, Bray said, in order to provide relief in the caseloads officers were experiencing. In January, officers funded through the province will be assigned to work specifically on the issues of guns, drugs and gangs. 

Bray is chairing a national committee for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. The focus of the committee is to dig into the illegal use of firearms for crime, which Bray called, "a monster issue."

Bray was skeptical about how effective a proposed handgun ban would be. He said that in Regina, the firearms used in crimes are often stolen hunting rifles. 

"I'm not going to say that handguns aren't a risk to citizens in Regina, because they are," said Bray, but "predominantly the crime that's involving firearms in our city is long-barrelled rifles or shotguns."

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