'It is just a different city:' Saskatoon police chief talks to public about crime

Saskatoon's police chief says until serious social issues are addressed, crime rates will not drop significantly.

Crime rates down, more attention needed to social issues

On Tuesday night, SPS Police Chief Clive Weighill presented information on current crime trends in Saskatoon and how police are using resources. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)

Police consulted with community members, aid organizations, politicians and even ex-gang members Tuesday night in Saskatoon. 

It was a public check-in on crime in the city and how police are doing, held at the farmer's market.

Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill kicked off the meeting with information about how the force currently uses its resources.

This slide illustrates how police force staff resources are used in Saskatoon. (Saskatoon Police Service)

Weighill said although crime has dropped 47 per cent since 2005, more officers are needed because 80 per cent of the calls police respond to are not serious crimes.

Currently, 45 per cent of the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) works as members of the patrol division.

"I think it is very important for people in Saskatoon to hear what the issues are, what the real issues are, not just what's on the street," Weighill said. "Have some statistical information to go by and then make some decisions; what do you want from your police service? Do you want more? Do you want less?"

This slide breaks down how the Saskatoon Police Service uses investigative resources. (Saskatoon Police Service)

Weighill explained that aside from drugs, there have been many major changes in recent years which have impacted the way police operate in the city. Amongst these changes he noted:

  • Internet crimes, including child pornography, fraud and bullying
  • Drugs, including the practice of outsiders moving drugs to Saskatoon, prevalence of methamphetamine on the streets, gang activity and subsequent violence
  • Legislation, changes in police disclosure, paperwork, transcription methods, warrant procedures
  • Social interaction, including police encounters with mentally ill people, panhandlers
  • Population growth, 55,000 people have moved to the city since 2005

After the presentation, Weighill said the city's changing and growing drug trade has impacted policing. 

"Drugs are such a lucrative business. There's a lot of people, very organized getting in to the business," he said. 

Saskatoon Police Service gathered these results after asking members of the public what issues are important when it comes to public safety. (Saskatoon Police Service)

"It is just a different city"

Weighill said that people from cities across the prairies and beyond are bringing their drug businesses to Saskatoon.

"We saw the increase in this started at the beginning of 2013, all the way through 2014, into 2015. It has been a slow progression of people coming to Saskatoon trying to sell drugs," he said. "There's money here, there's jobs here. Different cohorts of people that are working, got some money. It is just a different city."

Weighill said that the community consultation is important because until everyone starts addressing larger, social issues, crime rates will not fall significantly.

"We have to really get serious about some of the social issues that are impacting a huge, marginalized population here. Poverty, poor housing, racism, getting left behind. It is almost a criminologist text book case here of how people get involved in crime."

After the SPS presentation, a panel shared views on crime and public safety from the perspectives of their organizations. Participants included the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Health Region, Saskatoon Council on Aging, Open Door Society, Str8up Program.

To read more about an ex-gang member's perspective on crime and policing in Saskatoon, read here.


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