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Coronavirus impacting crime statistics, unfortunately not always for the better

Barrhead’s top cop notes person crimes up in first half of 2020, while property crimes are at a five year low
Bob Dodds, July 21-cropped
Barrhead RCMP Detachment commander Bob Dodds said the coronavirus is one of the reasons why the area has seen a decrease in property crimes. Barry Kerton/T&C

BARRHEAD-It was a good news-bad news report from Barrhead Sgt. Bob Dodds.

As part of his July 21 quarterly report to County of Barrhead councillors, Dodds said that property crimes in the detachment area have decreased significantly.

In 2020, from January to June, the number of property crimes files are the lowest they have been in five years.

Unfortunately, Dodds could not say the same for person crimes, which have seen a spike. Over the same period, person crimes are the second-highest that they have been in the last five years.

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

In both instances, Dodds believes are a direct result of the coronavirus.

In the first six months of this year, the detachment responded to 110 person crimes, up from 102 in 2019.

The spike he said comes from mostly uttering threats and to a lesser amount, assault complaints. In 2020, there were 31 uttering threat and 52 assault complaints.

In the previous four years, the detachment recorded 18, 24, 16 and 12 uttering threats complaints while assaults were 61, 62, 33 and 48.

He said uttering threats can range from the typical "shooting one's mouth off" or things declared in the heat of the moment to more serious threats.

For the most part, Dodd characterized the vast majority of uttering threat complaints in the lesser category.

County manager Debbie Oyarzun asked if uttering threats included those made via social media or those made directly to a person.

"It can be either," Dodds said. "If it is a social media or text threat, it complicates our investigation, trying to confirm who was at the keyboard when it was made."

He added uttering threats and assaults, like the majority of person crimes are committed by people the victim knows.

"It is the family disputes, domestic violence situations," Dodds said. "There is not a problem of random people being assaulted on Barrhead streets."

Other person crime statistics for 2020 include criminal harassment at 10; sexual offences (assaults and others) at 6 and 8, respectively, robbery at 2 and kidnapping/hostage/abduction with no complaints.

Property crimes

On the property crime side, in 2020, the detachment saw a noticeable drop in complaints almost across the board. The largest category was theft under $5,000 at 89 down from 117 the year or a 24 per cent drop. The next largest category, break and enter, saw a nine per cent decrease going from 54 to 49, with similar drops in mischief to property from 53 to 32 and motor vehicle thefts going from 27 to 23. Possession of stolen property files went from 27 to 17 while fraud, theft over $5,000 and arson went from 19, 8, and 4 to 19, 5 and 3, respectively.

"It might be due to COVID," Dodds said. "People are home more and can keep an eye on things more."

That being said, in the first few weeks of July, there has been an increase in high-value thefts.

Dodds said they received complaints from energy company sites in the Tiger Lily area.

"The damage totalled well more than $100,000," he said.

Dodds added on July 20, they responded to a report of a stolen haybine.

"There is a $30,000-$40,000 piece of equipment gone," he said, adding it was most likely stolen by professionals, noting they managed to remove the GPS module placing at a bogus location. "This [in all likelihood] is a by order theft where they received a request, found it, stole it, delivered it and it is now cutting hay somewhere."

Regrettably, when police solve a crime and have a suspect in custody, their efforts often go for nought because the majority of charges are being withdrawn before going to trial.

"Because of COVID, it is hard to find a court these days," Dodds said.

He also noted that motor vehicle collisions have also markedly decreased going from 194 in 2019 to 143. The next lowest total, in 2018 was 176. In 2016 and 2017 the number of collisions in the first half of the year were well in excess of 200.

Staffing levels

Except for the the vacant corporal position, the Barrhead RCMP Detachment is fully staffed having nine general duty constables. Not including the student resource officer (SRO).

In fact, they have one surplus member, Const. Adam Herrick, formerly of Westlock traffick who is on temporary loan while he is awaiting transfer.

"[Herrick] is a very experienced and keen member and as the result of his abilities we have seen the number of drug charges skyrocket," Dodds said. "He is very good at making traffic stops and making observations that give us grounds for a search and through his efforts we have been able to lay liquor, drug and drug trafficking charges."

He added, for the most part, the detachment does not have many experienced officers, so having someone like Herrick is a tremendous asset and teachng resource.

Barry Kerton, TownandCountryToday.com

TOWNandCOUNTRY

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