'We are still a safe city': Mayor, interim police chief reassure residents despite crime stats report

Windsor's Mayor Drew Dilkens and interim police chief Pam Mizuno are reassuring residents the city is still safe, despite numbers published in a recent Statistics Canada crime report.

Windsor police recorded 17,747 incidents of crime in 2018

Windsor's Crime Severity Index (CSI) increased by 23 per cent between 2017 and 2018. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and interim police chief Pam Mizuno are reassuring residents the city is still safe, despite numbers published in a recent Statistics Canada crime report.

The report released Tuesday compiled data from law enforcement agencies across Canada, revealing Windsor police saw an 18.76 per cent increase in crime last year, compared to 2017. There were 17,747 incidents of crime in 2018 and 14,680 recorded incidents in the previous year.

The city's Crime Severity Index (CSI) — a number calculated by aggregating different instances of crime with ranging severities, including Criminal Code violations, traffic crimes, drug violations and federal statute violations — also increased from 93.90 in 2017 to 115.93 in 2018 — a 23.46 per cent increase.

In contrast, Ontario's overall CSI was 59.96 in 2018. 

As a census metropolitan area (CMA), which includes statistics from Lakeshore, LaSalle, Tecumseh and Amherstburg, Windsor's CSI increased by approximately 21 per cent — the highest increase of any CMA of its size.

Increase in crime severity index, increase in clearance rates

Mizuno said she recognizes the numbers seem alarming, but reiterated residents should remember "we are still a safe city."

"I think the clearance rates show that we are still a safe city," said Mizuno, citing Windsor's clearance rates — which refer to the number of crimes with which a charge has been laid.

According to StatsCan's figures, Windsor police cleared 6,275 crimes in 2018, clearing 5,340 crimes with a charge. 

In total, 5,016 people were charged with crimes in 2018. 

"There was an increase in clearance of crime by about three per cent when it comes to violent crime," said Mizuno. "Slight drops of one or two per cent for non-violent crime, but that's a really good indicator of our community and the interaction of the public with our police, in order to solve the crime in our community."

Interim police chief Pam Mizuno reassured residents that Windsor is still a safe city. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

For his part, Mayor Dilkens said an anomalous number of homicides contributed to the spike in Windsor's CSI — echoing information outlined in StatsCan's report. 

Windsor police reported 10 homicides in 2018, versus three in 2017. Those 10 homicides ensured 2018 was Windsor's deadliest year since 1978.

Dilkens added the city hired an additional 24 officers to patrol city streets — action that was recommended by former police chief Al Frederick. 

"Those officers and the full complement of those officers were hired just a couple of months ago and finalized a couple of months ago," said Dilkens. "Once those officers are on the road, doing their job, go through police college and come back, you should see the impact of having 24 additional officers on the road in the City of Windsor."

In addition to an increase in homicides, StatsCan noted that increased rates of breaking and entering and fraud crimes contributed to Windsor's higher CSI.

Mayor Dilkens says Windsor has hired 24 new police officers to ensure resident safety. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Windsor police reported 2,082 instances of break and enter incidents in 2018, compared to 1,552 in 2017.

Windsor police also reported 1,351 instances of fraud crimes in 2018, compared to 902 in 2017.

"I think at the end of the day, there is a reason why we hired 24 more officers, because we saw an increase in crime in our city and we wanted residents to feel safe in their communities," said Dilkens, who acknowledged his own vehicle was broken into approximately one-week-ago.

Dilkens added Windsor City Council's 2019 budget earmarked funds for the installation of cameras around the city.

"So we're working out the plan on the best places for the installation of cameras," said Dilkens.

"In the City of Windsor context, some of the cameras that we already have on the street, it's a matter of upgrading them from analogue to digital, and creating a spine that would be available to police [through] their dispatch centres, so that they could see in real time what's going on throughout the city."

Improved policing only one solution 

Dilkens acknowledged a multitude of factors contribute to increased crime in the city.

"At the end of the day, we know that the increase in crime is driven by certain factors, many of which are beyond the control of the average citizen to deal with," he said.

"But we're going to make sure that as we deal with things like mental health issues, like drug addiction in the city — something that's exploded across North America frankly — that we want to do everything we can to make sure residents feel safe in their home."

Dilkens explained resident safety is part of the reason why the police service hired 24 additional officers.

The job of police is to keep us safe ...- Remy Boulbol, Windsor community organizer

Still, not all Windsorites believe that an increased police presence will reduce the city's increasing crime rate. 

Remy Boulbol is a Windsor-based community organizer. She says that police should be responsible for enforcing the law, and not necessarily fixing communities.

"Their job is not to be a lawyer, their job is not to be a social worker, their job is not to do all the things that deter crime in the first place," said Boulbol. 

Boulbol explained community members need to understand causes of crime and "figure out what we need to do together to make it better."

"The job of police is to keep us safe, to keep us safe from crime and that's a separate issue from the why," she said. 

"More police officers is not going to fix the opioid crisis that we have, more police officers is not going to fix the number of children living in poverty in this city … more police officers is not going to fix the fact that we do not have proper responses to people living with mental health issues."

Boulbol added Windsor needs more police officers who fulfill "community policing" roles.

"[These are] police officers who ... are within the community, who are on-foot walking around, getting to know people, getting to know neighbourhoods, getting to know the specific issues that are happening across different neighbourhoods across the city," she said. 

"It's about being an integral part of upkeep of a community's fabric."

With files from Chris Ensing


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