Domestic incidents on the rise in York Region amid COVID-19 crisis, police say

Cases in York Region involving fraud and impaired driving are decreasing due to COVID-19, police say, while domestic incidents and theft are on the rise.

Meanwhile, virus appears to have curbed cases of impaired driving, fraud

York Regional Police say they continue to adapt to changing patterns of crime in the region as a result of people staying indoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including increases in domestic incidents. (Katherine Holland/CBC)

Domestic incidents in York Region are on the rise with COVID-19 forcing people to spend more time inside, police say. 

Although overall crime was down 13 per cent in March 2020 compared to March 2019, domestic incidents — as well as cases of vehicle theft and stunt driving — have seen a spike in numbers. 

Below is a breakdown of crime that police say have increased since changes came into effect surrounding COVID-19:

  • Commercial break and enters have increased by 45 per cent. 
  • Thefts of vehicles have increased by 44 per cent. 
  • Domestic incidents have increased by 22 per cent. 
  • Stunt driving incidents of 50 km/hour or more above the speed limit have increased by 60 per cent. 

Those increasing numbers are "really troubling," York police spokesperson Andy Pattenden told CBC Toronto.

The increase in domestic incidents is likely due to more people being at home together for longer periods of time, Pattenden said, while closed businesses and emptier streets are a catalyst for more break and enters and stunt driving.

"We're hoping people can stay as patient as possible and look forward to good times ahead once we're look of COVID-19, which we're not clear how long that's going to be," he said.

These numbers are unaudited and not official statistics, police caution.

Fraud, impaired driving cases decreasing 

Meanwhile police say some crimes, including incidents of impaired driving and fraud, are on a downward slope. 

Below is a breakdown of crime that has decreased: 

  • Traffic violations have decreased by 32 per cent.
  • Impaired driving has decreased by 29 per cent.
  • Frauds have decreased by 16 per cent.
  • Weapons offences have decreased by 13 per cent. 

"Thankfully, weapons offences are down, shootings, things like that — we're just not seeing them in our region," Pattenden said. 

Police say they're now trying to adjust to these changes. 

"York Regional Police continues to respond and adapt to changes in crime trends as a result of COVID-19 and the changes to daily life in our community," police said in the release. 

Complaints over businesses staying open 

Pattenden also said York police received 200 calls related to non-essential businesses remaining open, and people failing to isolate themselves or maintain physical distance. 

Although police haven't yet laid any charges in relation to these complaints, they said they're working with community members to adjust to new COVID-19 provisions. 

"We are taking those complaints to our non-emergency line and we are investigating them," Pettenden said. 

Province to provide $2.7M to help domestic violence victims 

Meanwhile, Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey Thursday announced $2.7 million for community agencies to support victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Staying home is unfortunately not always the safest option in certain households and sadly a recent increase in domestic violence has been reported to front-line victim service organizations," Downey said in a news release on Thursday.

The province is also investing $1.3 million in technology to help courts and tribunals operate remotely.

With files from The Canadian Press