Police chief says pandemic making crime personal in Saskatoon

Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper says crimes involving drugs, firearms and violence are up since March.

Aggravated assaults and criminal harassment up, property crime down

Police are seeing the stresses of the pandemic in their calls. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

Crime in Saskatoon has taken a turn for the personal since the pandemic hit the city in March.

Police chief Troy Cooper says aggravated assaults, domestic assaults and criminal harassment charges are all up, while property crimes such as break-and-enters, thefts and robberies have all dropped.

Cooper said in an interview that police are still trying to make sense of how the pandemic is affecting crime.

He said that, anecdotally, it would appear that having people living in close quarters for months on end is leading to person-on-person crime, whether it's assaults or domestic violence.

Similarly, a drop in property crime could reflect the lack of opportunity due to many businesses being closed.

There have been 12 homicides in the city so far this year (with nine arrests) compared to 16 last year. Cooper said gangs played a role in three-quarters of the homicides and that half involved firearms.

Cooper said police are also dealing with the fallout from COVID-19 in their own workplace. Shifts are getting changed to reduce the number of people in the building and staff now try to assess online or by phone whether officers should be sent on a call.

He said nine people in the building have tested positive and another 30 forced to self isolate since March.