Regina crime rate drops, but domestic dispute-related calls rise amid COVID-19

Crime is down almost 20 per cent in Regina, a decline that could be driven by COVID-19.

Overdose total sits at 349, 'a pandemic in and of itself' says police chief

The most recent stats show crimes against people and property dropped nearly 20 per cent over last April in Regina. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)

COVID-19 could be driving down crime in Regina.

In the month of April, statistics show there was about 20 per cent less crime against property and people in Regina than there was for the same period last year.

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said he's used to seeing crime statistics constantly in flux, but the pandemic and the public health orders have had their own impact on the numbers.

Residential break and enters are down year-to-date, while break and enters at businesses have gone up.

"I feel like a big part of that is that people are at home more, so the opportunity is being taken away from those who want to commit those crimes," Bray said. 

"Those types of changes are easier to track and attribute to COVID."

Theft under $5,000 in particular is down, which Bray said could be attributed to the fact that police have received fewer shoplifting-related calls due to stores being shut down.

He said the decrease in property crime could be due to the fact that fewer people are out and about, but that could change with the arrival of warmer weather and reduced restrictions.

Police also issued 43.5 per cent fewer traffic tickets in April of 2020 compared to the same period last year.

Overdoses continue to climb

Police in Regina have changed their drug enforcement strategy to address drug trafficking. Bray said that has led to a roughly 19 per cent increase in drug charges in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

But Bray said overdoses, which aren't a criminally tracked stat, continue to climb. 

He said as of Wednesday there had been 349 overdoses reported to police or the health authority in 2020. But, Bray also said he knows the 349 count doesn't accurately reflect the entire problem because some overdoses go unreported. 

"It's a pandemic in and of itself," Bray said, adding police enforcement and education can only go so far to address the underlying issue of addiction. 

"We really do need to step in and, almost literally and figuratively, put our arm around people that need help and provide them with constant resourced help."

Increase in domestic dispute calls

Bray said domestic dispute calls — which can include assaults, arguments, threats or breaches of restraining orders — are on the rise and attributed it in part to COVID-19. 

"On average, prior to COVID, we were attending about 16 domestic-related calls for service per day," Bray said. "Through COVID, that's gone up to about 19 [per day]."

He said people's anxiety about the virus and the economic situations it has created are compounded by the fact more people are home together for a longer period of time than they may have been before.

"We know when emotions run high, that's a time that can sometimes be a catalyst to a spark and an argument or something happening," he said.

In speaking with the Provincial Association of Transition Houses, Bray learned that one of their biggest concerns is having more people at home makes it harder for people to report domestic situations. 

Bray said a lot of time and attention has been spent on educating people about how to report domestic conflict, how to keep people safe while doing so, by the province, police service and by community partners. 

Homicide total 'a big concern'

April's numbers show one homicide for the month.

A man's body was found in a home on the 1000 block of Princess Street on April 24. It was the sixth homicide of 2020 in Regina. 

A seventh homicide, which has yet to be reported in the official crime statistics, was recorded on May 25, when a 31-year-old man was charged with first degree murder in relation to the death of his 54-year-old father.

The total is alarming to Bray. 

"It's a big concern," he said. "We dig into those and have had good success investigating them but it's still a very, very traumatic event for the community, for multiple families."

In comparison, by April 2019 there had only been two reported homicides in Regina.

See the statistics here:

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