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Person crimes on the rise, while the number property offenses are decreasing

Barrhead’s top cop believes the coronavirus might be responsible for both trends
cropped-Sgt. Bob Dodds Oct.6,2020
Barrhead RCMP Sgt. Bob Dodds had both good and bad news for County of Barrhead councillors. On the positive side, property crime stats are at a five year low. Unfortunately, person crimes are bucking that trend and are on the rise. Barry Kerton/BL

BARRHEAD-Barrhead RCMP Sgt. Bob Dodds had some good and bad news for County of Barrhead councillors.

As part of his Sept. 6 quarterly report to County of Barrhead councillors, Dodds said that property crimes for an eight month period (from January to September) when compared to the same period are the lowest they have been in five years.

Unfortunately, he could not say the same thing for person crimes which seem to be on the rise.

Person crimes are crimes perpetrators commit directly against other people, i.e. assault.

In both instances, Dodds suspects it is a direct result of the coronavirus.

From January to September, the detachment responded to 156 person crimes, up from 148 in 2019.

"The upward trend is slowing down over the year because we were running the hottest for a while, having the highest person crime rate in five years, but now it is in the middle of the pack," he said.

The two highest categories were assault and uttering threats at 74 and 40 respectively. This compares to 68 and 22, the previous year. Other person crime categories include criminal harassment at 15, which is a reduction from 2019's 31 files, robbery at three and one file each for extortion and kidnapping.

However, Dodds said perhaps the most disturbing statistic is the number of sexually related files at 22. In the first eight months of 2020, police responded to 12 sexual assaults as well as 10 other sexual related offences. In 2019, those numbers were six and seven, respectively.

"I wish I had an explanation," he said. "It is something K Division has noticed as well, saying the number of sexually related files is higher than they would expect from a community of our size and demographics."

The only explanation Dodds could come up with is that because of Me Too movement, and the awareness that has come from a global discussion is that people are coming forward who might not have previously.

"We don't have an unidentified serial rapist running around," Dodds said. "In each case, we have identified the culprit. Most of them are family members."

Despite the rise in person crimes, Dodds noted that Barrhead is still a safe community, noting that in the vast majority of cases, especially when it comes to assaults and uttering threats, the crimes are done by people who are known by the victim and many are relatively minor in nature.

Property crimes

On the property crime side, so far in 2020, the detachment has seen a noticeable drop in property crime almost across the board.

The largest category was theft under $5,000 at 135 down from 197, last year, a 31 per cent reduction.

The next largest category, break and enter, is down by 24 per cent going from 110 to 84, with similar drops in mischief to property from 79 to 54 and motor vehicle thefts going from 58 to 48. Possession of stolen property files went from 54 to 41 while fraud and arson went from 38, and 9 to 29 and 8. Theft over $5,000 remained the same with 16 complaints reported in 2019 and 2020.

He also noted that motor vehicle collisions have also markedly decreased going from 282 in 2019 to 223 in 2020.

The only theory Dodds has for the change in all of these statistics is COVID.

"People are staying home more, not driving as much, watching their property so it is not getting stolen. But on the flip side people are at home more and are getting tired of one another so assaults and threats are happening," he said.

Mental health act

One area Dodds is concerned about is the number of times members have been called out to assist other agencies for issues under the Mental Health Act.

From January to September, Barrhead RCMP has responded to 91 mental health files.

"These are the potentially catastrophic situations that we go to, where we have people in distress and we have to determine if they have to go in for an assessment," he said.

At the best of times, these situations are time-consuming, but in what seems to be an ever-increasing number of times, about 14 in 2019, RCMP members are called upon to travel into the city.

"Not only travelling but waiting in emergency until they are admitted," he said, adding the majority of these people are those who have threatened suicide. "Often what happens, is that they are evaluated, and within minutes they are released because the crisis moment is over and the doctors have no grounds to hold them."

Reeve Doug Drozd asked if a guard or matron could assume that role.

Regrettably, not, Dodds said. "It can go from zero to everything in a blink of an eye. You need someone with the tools, training and authority to defend themselves."

Barry Kerton,